Common Sense Review
Updated November 2013

Smithsonian's History Explorer

Lessons, activities, artifacts, artfully presented by the Smithsonian
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Common Sense Rating 4
Teacher Rating (1 Teacher Review) 4
  • The home page features lots of goodies.
  • You can search for content by theme or by specific subjects.
  • Teacher Resources offers guidance on ways to use the site in the classroom.
  • Lots of Flash-based activities are great for kids to explore on their own.
  • History is divided into 10 separate eras on the site.
Organization and searching functions are unparalleled, making it easy to find the perfect content.
It would be helpful to be able to save favorite lessons.
Bottom Line
A fantastic resource for kids and teachers alike, it has everything you need to fall in love with history.
Polly Conway
Common Sense Reviewer
Classroom teacher
Common Sense Rating 4
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 3

Design is clean, easy to navigate, and while each lesson or interactive experience has its own style, the Smithsonian quality's apparent throughout. Kids can find fun through lots of multimedia options.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 4

The potential for deep, lasting learning is big here; lessons are thoughtfully planned and there's an incredible variety of content to explore. Kids will feel empowered as they explore things like a 3-D ship model on their own.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 4

With the entire Smithsonian collection backing it, the site has countless extensions and ways to further learning. Teacher resources, outside links, and help are highlighted.

About our ratings and privacy evaluation.
How Can Teachers Use It?

This site is jam-packed with lessons that are ready for you to teach. Everything is standards-based and labeled as such, which gives you more time to pick the most appropriate lessons for your students. Students can also explore the site on their own; it's an ideal source for research report material or an in-class presentation.

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What's It Like?

Smithsonian's History Explorer is a website developed by the National Museum of American History that offers online resources for teaching and learning American history. There's no log-in or way to save data, but you can browse all that the site has to offer and use the content you find in the classroom. The home page includes a Featured Artifact, Featured Resources, and a rotating board of highlighted material. Search-wise, you can filter content by grade, resource type, historical era, and cross-curricular connection. Resource types span from Artifacts (selected from the Museum's more than 3 million items) to Lessons/Activities to Interactives/Media, and the 10 eras include Beginnings to 1620 and 1968 to the Present. Once you've chosen your filters, you'll receive a list of resources, such as All Aboard the Train, a lesson plan about American train travel. The standards it meets appear below a brief description; hit Get Resource, and the content is yours.

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Is It Good For Learning?

It's outstanding. Aside from its great search function and excellent selection of lessons and activities, the site is beautifully designed and a pleasure to browse. Kids can learn about particular areas of history, or they can get a broad overview of an era. Some artifacts are classics, like Dorothea Lange's iconic Depression-era photograph Migrant Mother, but kids can also take a look at the history behind lesser-known aspects of American culture, like the Hamons Court neon sign, an example of roadside culture in Oklahoma.

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