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Smithsonian Experts Explore the Science, History and Art of Earth's Critical Natural Resources

Smithsonian Experts Explore the Science, History and Art of Earth's Critical Natural Resource with Free "Water Matters" Webinars; Interdisciplinary Webinar Series Sponsored by Microsoft's Partners in Learning

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Feb. 28, 2012) - The 2012 Shout environmental exploration program is offering students and educators new ways to demonstrate achievement with its digital Smithsonian Badges program and live sessions from a Panama field research center in March. Shout is a joint project of the Smithsonian, Microsoft's Partners in Learning and TakingITGlobal.

Students can earn Quest Badges (by demonstrating knowledge of environmental topics and displaying 21st-century skills) or Community Badges (by making contributions to the Shout badging community). They can then include these digital badges in social networking profiles or resumes, demonstrating accomplishments that might lead to community recognition and even to educational and job opportunities.

The badges are comparable to scouting merit badges (though in digital form) and similar to achievement awards in the world of gaming. To earn a badge, the student passes through levels of complexity. Each level aligns to one or more national or state standards, so educators can easily integrate the program into their curriculum. The focus is on three key benchmarks: systems, human impact and civic responsibility. Educators also can earn badges based on their involvement.

Smithsonian Badges is part of the larger Shout program, which includes free online webinars led by Smithsonian experts. This year's series, "Water Matters," began Feb. 7-8 with live sessions by Smithsonian experts ranging from a marine biologist to a music archivist. More than 1,200 people-mostly educators and students-participated globally. Topics included the impact of rising nitrogen levels on water quality, the disappearance of amphibians around the world and innovative housing designs in post-Katrina New Orleans. Archived sessions can be accessed at www.smithsonianconference.org/shout/schedule.

Many teachers and their students will be completing projects to more fully explore environmental issues. "We're integrating the Shout content into a yearlong environmental project focusing on the global water crisis. These webinars are highlighting the reality that this issue is not just science-related-it is a global concern that affects multiple areas of study," said Layne Zimmers, a sixth-grade history and language arts teacher at Lincoln Magnet School in Springfield, Ill. "Through the webinars, my students are learning what compelling speakers sound like, and how they integrate facts and research into reports. They're using those resources for their own presentations." 

In addition to these student resources, Shout offers Teacher Preview Sessions, which highlight online tools to use in the classroom and a forum to share curriculum ideas among educators before the conference sessions. The next Teacher Preview Session will take place online March 21. Teacher Technology Sessions are also available for educators looking to implement the Shout themes with interactive technology in their classroom. For a list of teacher technology sessions, please visit http://shoutlearning.org/techtools.html.

The next webinar in the series, scheduled for March 26-27, will include live sessions from the Smithsonian's field research center in Panama, where scientists are studying tropical ecology. Other sessions will explore water-related inventions, the role of water in cultures around the world and representations of water in American art. Anyone interested can register for one or more of the 50-minute sessions at http://www.smithsonianconference.org/shout/program-2012/. Information about the digital-badging program can be found at www.smithsonianconference.org/shout/badges.

About Smithsonian Institution
Founded in 1846, the Smithsonian is the world's largest museum and research complex, consisting of 19 museums and galleries, the National Zoological Park and nine research facilities. There are 6,000 Smithsonian employees and 6,500 volunteers. Approximately 28.6 million people from around the world visited the Smithsonian in 2011. The total number of objects, works of art and specimens at the Smithsonian is estimated at 137 million.

About Partners in Learning
Partners in Learning is a 10-year, nearly $500 million commitment by Microsoft to help education systems around the world. Since its inception in 2003, the Partners in Learning program has reached more than 196 million teachers and students in 114 countries. Supporting the program is the online Partners in Learning Network, one of the world's largest global professional networks for educators, connecting millions of teachers and school leaders around the world in a community of professional development.

About TakingITGlobal
TakingITGlobal provides innovative global education programs that empower youth to understand and act on the world's greatest challenges. Often described as a "social network for social good," the award-winning www.tigweb.org is available in 13 languages and offers a diverse set of educational resources and action tools intended to inspire, inform and involve. Since being founded as a charity by two young Canadians in 2000, 40 million people have accessed the website to learn, grow and realize their potential.

Contact: Michelle Smith (Smithsonian) (202) 633-5326; smithmk@si.edu