Science How? Webcasts

The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and the Fairfax Network bring Smithsonian resources and expertise to students and educators.

Audience: Students in Grades 6-8

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Through a partnership with the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, the Fairfax Network offered the Smithsonian Science How webcasts to middle school students. Each webcast provided students with positive STEM role models, information about science careers and pathways, and connections to current research. Students watched how scientists and other experts used tools and technology in their work.

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Click an accordion below to get links to videos and resources at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

These webcasts are also available for video download from the Fairfax Network. Please use the Science How? Video Link Request Form to request the video file(s).

Earth Science Webcasts

  • Astrogeology: Meteorites and Spacecraft Missions — Geologist Tim McCoy discusses what meteorites can tell us about the formation of the solar system. Watch the Video · Request the Video File 
  • Exploring the Solar System with Antarctic Meteorites — Geologist Cari Corrigan shares how she searches for meteorites in Antarctica and analyzes them using modern laboratory techniques. Watch the Video · Request the Video File 
  • How Volcanic Eruptions Send Materials Up and Out — Geologist Ben Andrews explores the physics of explosive eruptions. Watch the Video · Request the Video File 
  • Mineral Dependence: From Gemstones to Cellphones — Geologist Michael Wise studies unusual rocks called pegmatites, which he considers to be "Nature’s Giant Treasure Chests." Watch the Video · Request the Video File 
  • Volcano Geochemistry: Windows to Earth's Interior — Geologist Elizabeth Cottrell explains how volcanoes form, how they work, and what comes out of them. Watch the Video · Request the Video File

Life Science Webcasts

  • A Century of Discovery of Sea Urchins and Relatives — Zoologist Dave Pawson studies echinoderms in the deep sea, including sea urchins, sea stars, and sea cucumbers. Watch the Video · Request the Video File
  • Arthropod Adaptations: Inside the Insect Zoo — Former O. Orkin Insect Zoo Manager Dan Babbitt highlights the adaptations of insects and other arthropods. Watch the Video · Request the Video File
  • Assassin Flies: Predators of the Insect World — Entomologist Torsten Dikow discusses the evolution, biodiversity, and behavior of assassin flies. Watch the Video · Request the Video File
  • Bird Extinctions: Time Travel through Lava Tubes — Ornithologist Helen James explains what prehistoric evidence can tell you about bird extinctions. Watch the Video · Request the Video File
  • Butterfly Adaptations: How They Come By Their Colors — Butterfly Pavilion Manager Eric Wenzel and Microscopy Educator Juan Pablo Hurtado Padilla explore color patterns and the detailed wing structures that give butterflies their colors. Watch the Video · Request the Video File
  • Deep-Ocean Discovery: Octopods and Squids — Zoologist Mike Vecchione describes octopods and squids that have been discovered in the deep ocean, and the tools used to make deep-sea discoveries. Watch the Video · Request the Video File
  • Deep Reef Biodiversity: Exploring the Unexplored — Marine biologist Carole Baldwin studies fish diversity on coral reefs at depths of 200-1,000 feet. Watch the Video · Request the Video File
  • Exploring the Amazing World of Lichens — Lichenologist Manuela Dal Forno shows the different steps she takes to study lichens: finding them in nature, looking at them under a microscope, and analyzing their DNA. Watch the Video · Request the Video File
  • The Evolution of Agriculture in Ants — Entomologist Ted Schultz shares the evolutionary history of farming in ants. Watch the Video · Request the Video File
  • Ferns: Curious Life Cycles and Remarkable Biodiversity — Botanist Eric Schuettpelz reveals the unique life cycles of ferns and highlights some of their adaptations. Watch the Video · Request the Video File
  • Forensic Ornithology: Bird Detective — Ornithologist Carla Dove shares how the Feather Identification Lab helps make us safer on planes. Watch the Video · Request the Video File
  • How to Discover a New Mammal Species — Zoologist Kristofer Helgen relies on both field work and museum collections to identify new species. Watch the Video · Request the Video File
  • Human Impacts and Extinction of Freshwater Snails — Zoologist Ellen Strong explains the roles freshwater snails play in ecosystems and how human activities put them at risk. Watch the Video · Request the Video File
  • Living Together: Parasites and Hosts — Zoologist Anna Phillips shares the importance of parasites and how they relate to their hosts. Watch the Video · Request the Video File
  • Measuring Biodiversity: Life in One Cubic Foot — Marine biologist Chris Meyer uses “reef hotels” to study the biodiversity of coral reefs in Indonesia and French Polynesia. Watch the Video · Request the Video File
  • Mineral Transformations: Demystifying Microbes — Geologist Cara Santelli studies the relationship between minerals and microbes, such as bacteria and fungi. Watch the Video · Request the Video File
  • Ocean Biodiversity: Discovering Marine Invertebrates — Zoologist Karen Osborn explains how she discovers and names new species of marine invertebrates, such as acorn worms. Watch the Video · Request the Video File
  • Powerful Predators: Adaptations of Trap-Jaw Spiders — Entomologist Hannah Wood explains how she studies tiny trap-jaw spiders. Watch the Video · Request the Video File


  • Forgotten Elephants of Deep Time — Paleobiologist Advait Jukar — discusses elephants from the past shows how various factors — such as body size, tooth shape, and habitat —played a role in the evolution of the elephant. Watch the Video ·  Request the Video File
  • Fossil Forensics: Plant and Insect Relationships — Paleobiologist Conrad Labandeira, who studies the associations between insects and plants. Watch the Video · Request the Video File
  • Global Change: Reading Ocean Fossils — Paleobiologist Brian Huber explains why tiny organisms called foraminifera are great indicators of changes in global environmental conditions. Watch the Video Request the Video File
  • How Bones Fossilize...or Don't — Paleontologist Kay Behrensmeyer shows the different specimens in one of the world’s largest fossil collections and talks about the special set of conditions that shape how and when bones fossilize. Watch the Video · Request the Video File
  • How Fossils Explain the Rise of Dinosaurs — Paleontologist Hans Sues explains how dinosaurs rose to prominence after a mass extinction event 200 million years ago. Watch the Video · Request the Video File
  • Inside the Smithsonian’s Fossil Prep Lab — Smithsonian Fossil Preparator Michelle Pinsdorf demonstrates how she cleans and prepares fossils for study and display. Watch the Video · Request the Video File
  • Mass Extinction: Solving the Dinosaur Mystery — Paleobotanist Kirk Johnson explains what happened at the end of the Cretaceous, 66 million years ago. Watch the Video · Request the Video File
  • Paleobiology: Unearthing Fossil Whales — Paleontologist Nick Pyenson explains how fossil whales reveal environments of the past. Watch the Video · Request the Video File
  • Paleobotany: Climate Change Past and Present — Paleobotanist Scott Wing reveals evidence for changes in plant communities during a distinct global warming event about 56 million years ago. Watch the Video · Request the Video File
  • Plesiosaurs and Other Large Marine Reptiles — Paleobiologist Laura Soul talks about giant marine reptiles that once dominated the sea, like plesiosaurs and how the body shapes and sizes of these animals, like their long-necks, evolved and changed over time.  Watch the Video · Request the Video File
  • What Tiny Fossils Explain about Big Dinosaur Ecosystems — Paleontologist Matthew Carrano shares what tiny fossils can reveal that complete, large dinosaur skeletons may not. Watch the Video · Request the Video File
  • What Tiny Marine Fossils Reveal about Extinction — Paleontologist Gene Hunt explains how he uses fossils to study a marine extinction mystery. Watch the Video · Request the Video File

Social Studies Webcasts

  • Culture and Climate Change in the Arctic — Archaeologist Bill Fitzhugh shares how people in the Arctic have coped with extreme conditions for thousands of years. Watch the Video · Request the Video File
  • Forensic Anthropology: Bone Whispering — Forensic anthropologist Kari Bruwelheide reveals how human bones can tell stories of people's lives in the past. Watch the Video · Request the Video File
  • How Bones Reveal Environmental Health — Anthropologist Sabrina Sholts studies skeletons, particularly skulls, to understand the impacts of environmental toxins. Watch the Video · Request the Video File
  • Human Evolution: Early Human Diets — Anthropologist Briana Pobiner explores the influence of diet, especially the shift to meat eating, on human evolution. Watch the Video · Request the Video File
  • Island Biodiversity: Tracking Human Influences — Archaeologist Torben Rick talks about the impacts early inhabitants of North America had on island and coastal ecosystems. Watch the Video · Request the Video File
  • Mummy Science: Natural and Cultural Preserved Remains — Anthropologist David Hunt explains how he uses modern technology to unwrap the secrets of mummies. Watch the Video · Request the Video File
  • Recovering Voices: Sustaining Global Linguistic Diversity — Smithsonian linguist Gabriela Pérez Báez discusses the world's incredible diversity of languages and the wealth of knowledge and information they hold. Watch the Video · Request the Video File
  • Unlocking Hidden Worlds through Archaeology and Archives — National Anthropological Archivist Molly Kamph uses archaeological artifacts from the NMNH Department of Anthropology's collections and the National Anthropological Archives to reveal insights into Neanderthals and early humans. Watch the Video · Request the Video File
  • Unseen Connections: A Natural History of the Cellphone — Anthropologist Joshua A. Bell discusses the life cycle of a cellphone and the social implications of the device becoming one of our most intimate possessions. Watch the Video · Request the Video File

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