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Botanical enrichment

The Libraries has partnered with the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center’s (SEEC) Kindergarten Program to bring excellence and innovation into early childhood education with a dynamic educational initiative in a museum-based setting.

Led by master teacher Joshua Beasley, the kindergartners at SEEC are experiencing the Smithsonian’s primary mission of the “increase the diffusion of knowledge” in a hands-on, interactive way at the Joseph F. Cullman 3rd Library of Natural History, located in the National Museum of Natural History. Beasley and Libraries curators Leslie K. Overstreet and Daria Wingreen-Mason facilitate the creative development of storytelling, drawing, and communication skills in the young students, using museum exhibition spaces, rare materials, and visual images for inspiration.

The Cullman Library provides the perfect backdrop for this imaginative learning. As Beasley states, “The physical space and creative atmosphere of the Cullman – as well as the collection of historical and fictional literature, fine art, and natural history illustration – is conducive to the adaptation, invention, and rehearsal of [Kindergarten] enrichment cycles.”

The cooperative project between the Cullman Library and SEEC was initially launched during the 2007-2008 academic year, with the theme "Real and Pretend Albatross." Kindergartners used several artifacts and rare books for research, including John Gould’s Birds of Australia; maritime works bound in leather and gold from the early naturalist and pirate, Captain William Dampier; and an albatross specimen inside a taxidermist’s workshop. For the current 2008-2009 academic year, the theme for the kindergarten class project is "Real and Pretend Gardens." Beasley plans to incorporate the Cullman’s Botanica Magnifica, a five volume, double-elephant folio-sized work of 250 photographic images of plants by Jonathan Singer; a painting of the young Lord Hamlet as a child playing with the jester in the garden (Calderon, 1868); and Botanicals, which contains rare, natural-history illustrations with an introduction and text by Overstreet.

Beasley, who earned an M.S. from Johns Hopkins University, received SEEC’s most prestigious honor, The Diane Homiak Award, for distinguished service as a museum professional. His curriculum for SEEC follows the kindergarten science literacy benchmarks from the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Regarding his relationship with the Cullman Library, he notes, “My curiosity about Cullman’s collections, and the Cullman staff’s curiosity about my Kindergartners, evolved into everyone wishing to trust and take a chance on each other.” —Liz O'Brien

Robert John Thornton

"The Universal Empire of Love" (Cupid) And thou, divine Linnaaeus trac'd my Reign.O'er Trees and Plants and Flora's Beauteous Train. Proved them obedient to my soft Controul soft. And gaily breathe the aromatic soul. Charlotte Lennox


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