Awards Ceremony Highlights the Range and Influence of Smithsonian Education for Teachers and Students
From an innovative cultural journey across the U.S. to youth-inspired environmental leadership, the Smithsonian Education Award recipients demonstrate a wide range of initiatives that bridge Affiliates, museums, research centers, and the Zoo with learners
During the Smithsonian Education Awards Ceremony held on April 19, 2023, educators from across the Smithsonian came together to celebrate the over 300 staff educators who implement the Smithsonian’s mission for the increase and diffusion of knowledge. The annual Smithsonian Education Awards Ceremony honors outstanding staff achievements by Smithsonian educators, who open the doors to invite lifelong learners, students, families, communities, fellows, interns, and educators everywhere to discover our extraordinary programming, resources, collections, and research. The awards recognize creativity, excellence, and commitment to serving the nation through distance learning, educational programming, digital media, publications, and exhibitions. The program is generously supported by the Smithsonian Women’s Committee and was endowed in honor of its 40th anniversary of service to the Smithsonian. The Smithsonian Office of the Under Secretary for Education (OUSE) manages the program, and an external committee of national education leaders makes the award selections.
Smithsonian educators gathered in community to celebrate the years’ achievements and challenges to empower teachers to transform the educational lives of children everywhere. The night began reverentially, with the Smithsonian Honor Guard posting flags and Maryland’s talented youth ensemble Foundation for the Advancement of Music and Education (FAME) playing an instrumental rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner. Then, Dr. Monique M. Chism, Smithsonian Under Secretary for Education and host of the awards offered remarks of thanks to the awardees, families, colleagues, and supporters in the virtual audience and within the National Museum of the American Indian’s Rasmuson Theater. Local performers FAME, whose mission is to is to give every young musician the best opportunity to succeed in life by providing music training and academic support provided a magical instrumental jazz performance. Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie G. Bunch III gave a poignant keynote that traced his education journey as the son of teachers, and his first role as a curator-educator at the National Air and Space Museum, to developing his profound sense of respect for education today as the senior leader at the Smithsonian Institution. Dr. Chism then presented a video highlighting the incredible role educators play during more than 175 years at the Smithsonian to transform teaching and learning, with the goal of reaching every classroom and home in America. She was then joined on stage by Secretary Bunch to present the awards honoring the top achievers from 2023. Each of the awardees embodies the Smithsonian Education community's ethos of greater reach, greater relevance, and profound impact—embracing the role Smithsonian educators play in our shared future. The resources and opportunities—honored at the Education Awards and highlighted below—are all free to the public and available online for easy access by teachers, parents, and students:
Education Achievement Award
Andrea Kim Neighbors, Head of Education at the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, received the 2023 Education Achievement Award for her extensive contributions not only to the Smithsonian Institution, but also to diverse educational organizations, educators, K-12 students, community scholars, and the public during her eight years of service. Andrea brings to her work a combination of content creation, enthusiastic engagement across units, empathy, intern mentorship, and a relentless commitment to expanding the understanding of public humanities.
Nominees for the Education Achievement Awards were Erika Wright, Education Specialist, The Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian; and Carol Wilson, Lunder Education Chair, Smithsonian American Art Museum.
Innovation & Access Award
The Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritages’ Masters of Tradition: A Cultural Journey Across America received the 2023 Education Innovation and Access Award. The free, online story map—a collaboration with the National Endowment for the Arts, Esri, and hundreds of artisans—takes educators, students, and families on a cultural journey across the United States. They discover inspiring stories of the American experience and the incredible diversity of communities and artistic expressions that enrich our nation and learn more about their own cultural heritage and the traditions of others. Dr. Marjorie Hunt, Curator and Educator, Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, and Dr. Betty Belanus, Curator and Educator, Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage accepted the award on behalf of the team.
Nominees for the Innovation and Access award were: Learning Resources & Flights of Fancy Digital Story Time from the National Air and Space Museum; and Historically Speaking program series from the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
One Smithsonian Education Award
Earth Optimism Youth Action & Leadership Team received the 2023 One Smithsonian Education Award for exemplary pan-institutional collaboration. Led by Smithsonian Affiliations and the Smithsonian National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, Earth Optimism Youth Action & Leadership (EOYAL) builds environmental and justice literacy and leadership in high school students through informal place- and project-based learning. Through EOYAL, the team draws on resources and expertise from across the Smithsonian—including the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, Smithsonian Gardens, and Anacostia Community Museum, partners such as World Wildlife Fund and Chesapeake Bay Trust, and Affiliate organizations in 18 cities including Anchorage, Alaska; Miami, Florida; Lowell, Massachusetts, and Cody, Wyoming. They collaborate with students and teachers from Title I schools in historically underserved communities that are more vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change and environmental degradation. Through EOYAL, students bring lasting sustainability practices to their schools and communities, while also developing leadership skills, environmental literacy, and their identities as changemakers. Jennifer Brundage, National Outreach Program Manager, Smithsonian Affiliations, and Dr. Brian Coyle, Program Manager, Center for Species Survival, National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute accepted the award on behalf of the team.
Nominees for the One Smithsonian Education Award were Celebrating Black Birders Week 2022 at the Smithsonian led by the National Museum of Natural History and the National Museum for African American History and Culture; Smithsonian Science Education Center’s Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion in K-12 STEAM Education program, Nebraska Multicultural Education Initiative led by the Office of the Under Secretary for Education; and National Air and Space Museum’s Tour the Universe program.