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All smiles

SMILEOn November 1, ASTC Annual Conference attendees had the opportunity take the new Science and Math Informal Learning Educators (SMILE) digital library for a spin. During an interactive workshop entitled “SMILE: Creating Community Around Digital Collections in Science Centers,” participants, each on his or her own laptop, learned how to create a SMILE account and how to search, collect, comment on, and share the math and science activities available in the library. Participants also learned more about seed grants (ranging from $2,000 to $10,000 each) that will be awarded to organizations that can contribute high-quality online resources to SMILE.

Even with the abundance of digital libraries now online, informal educators often have a hard time finding hands-on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) activities created especially with them in mind. SMILE, part of the National Science Digital Library (NSDL), aims to fill that gap. SMILE is collecting the best educational materials on the Web and creating learning activities, tools, and services—all designed for those that teach schoolage kids in nonclassroom settings. The program’s creators say they want to meet out-of-school educators where they live, so to speak, whether their “classroom” is a museum, an active volcano, the shark tank at the local aquarium, or (in the case of homeschoolers) their own backyard.

Coordinating the hands-on workshop were Keith Braafladt and Asia Ward of the Science Museum of Minnesota, St. Paul. Session support was provided by Darrell Porcello and Joel Rosenberg of the Lawrence Hall of Science at the University of California, Berkeley; Erin Van Rheenen of the Exploratorium, San Francisco; and Tara Lang of the Children’s Museum of Houston, Texas.

Guest blogger Erin Van Rheenen is lead editor and metadata manager of SMILE and senior writer at the Exploratorium, San Francisco.

About the image: A workshop participant completes an activity listed in the SMILE digital library. Photo by Christine Ruffo