Smithsonian Education Awards: Recognizing Achievement and Encouraging Innovation

Smithsonian Education Awards honor outstanding achievements in education by Smithsonian employees. The awards recognize creativity, excellence, and commitment to serving the nation through educational programming, exhibits, publications, and digital media.

Past Education Award Recipients in Achievement & Innovation

2018 Awardees

Elizabeth Dale-Deines
Teacher Programs Coordinator
Smithsonian American Art Museum

Elizabeth Dale-Deines

Elizabeth Dale-Deines received the 2018 Achievement Award for her commitment to meeting the diverse needs of teachers and students in creative and impactful ways. A strong leader and collaborator who has worked tirelessly to design and facilitate a wide range of programs in distance learning, accessibility, teacher training, and much more, her efforts consistently strengthen participants’ skills and confidence and guide them towards deep, meaningful understanding.

Pictured, left to right: Secretary David Skorton and Elizabeth Dale-Deines.

Smithsonian Science for Global Goals
Smithsonian Science Education Center

Smithsonian Science for Global Goals

Smithsonian Science for Global Goals received the 2018 Innovation Award for its boundary-pushing approach to helping students across the globe understand critical socio-scientific issues and how they can take action in their local communities to make a difference. The project’s inquiry-based education modules, each focusing on a complex issue such as the challenges and mitigation of mosquito-borne illness and flexibly designed to meet classroom and regional needs, promise to engage and inspire a new generation of scientifically literate global citizens. This award is shared by the Smithsonian Science for Global Goals team at the Smithsonian Science Education Center (SSEC).

Pictured, left to right, top row: Amy D’Amico (Division Director of Professional Services, SSEC), Katherine Blanchard (Program Manager for Leadership Development and International Programs. SSEC), Ashley Deese (Manager of Digital Media, SSEC), Carol O’Donnell (Director, SSEC), Hannah Osborn (Publishing Assistant, SSEC), Jean Flanagan (Science Education Research Specialist, SSEC), Francine Baker (Postbaccalaureate IRTA Fellow, National Cancer Institute; formerly SSEC)
Bottom row: Secretary David Skorton, Heidi Gibson (Research Assistant, George Washington University; formerly SSEC), Katya Vines (Manager of Curriculum Development, SSEC), Inola Walston (Advancement Program Specialist, SSEC), Brian Mandell (Division Director of Curriculum and Communications, SSEC), Andre Radloff (Science Curriculum Developer, SSEC), Eric Nastasi (Division Director of Advancement and Partnerships, SSEC).

Smithsonian Women's Committee

Many thanks to the Smithsonian Women’s Committee, which endowed the awards in honor of their 40th anniversary of service to the Smithsonian.

Pictured, left to right, top row: Amy D’Amico, Katherine Blanchard, Ashley Deese, Carol O’Donnell, Elizabeth Dale Deines, Jean Flanagan, and Francine Baker.
Bottom row: David Skorton, Anne Keiser, JoAnn Symons (President, Smithsonian Women’s Committee), Heidi Gibson, Katya Vines, Inola Walston, Kathy Sommerkamp, Brian Mandell, Andre Radloff, Eric Nastasi, and Hannah Osborn.

2017 Awardees

Carrie Kotcho
Deputy Associate Director for Audience Engagement and the A. James Clark Director of Education and Impact
National Museum of American History

Carrie Kotcho

Carrie Kotcho received the 2017 Achievement Award for her leadership and commitment to furthering educational impact at the American History Museum and the Smithsonian. The many projects she has designed and managed, which range from mobile games and curricular materials, to open online courses and more, coupled with instrumental research that informed education outcomes and metrics for the new Strategic Plan, reflect Carrie’s vision, determination, and personal passion for education.

Pictured, left to right: Secretary David Skorton and Carrie Kotcho.

Museum on Main Street
Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service

Museum on Main Street

Museum on Main Street received the 2017 Innovation Award for its work engaging underserved rural audiences across America with evolving and innovative digital projects. Through initiatives such as “Stories from Main Street,” a web portal for collecting and saving stories about life in small-town America, to “Stories: YES,” which supports youth participants in researching their town’s histories and assembling their work in digital formats, MoMS helps its audiences embrace local history with an approach grounded in community. This award is shared by the MoMS team: Carol Harsh, Tiffany Cheng, Terri Cobb, Robbie Davis, Selwyn Ramp, and Shannon Sullivan.

Pictured, left to right: Secretary David Skorton, Austin Matthews (Deputy Director for Exhibitions), Carol Harsh (Director, Museum on Main Street and Special Projects), Tiffany Cheng (Multimedia Information Specialist, MoMS), Terri Cobb (Registrar, MoMS), Robbie Davis (Project Director, MoMS), Selwyn Ramp (Assistant Project Director, MoMS), Shannon Sullivan (StoriesYES Coordinator, MoMS).

Smithsonian Institution Women's Committee

Many thanks to the Smithsonian Women’s Committee, which endowed the awards in honor of their 40th anniversary of service to the Smithsonian.

Pictured, left to right: Secretary David Skorton, Carol Harsh (Innovation Awardee), Carrie Kotcho (Achievement Awardee), Cissel Gott Collins (SWC President 2016-2018), Marie Canny, Ann Peel, and Edna Jones.

2016 Awardees

Kimberly Arcand
Visualization Lead
Chandra X-ray Center, Smithsonian Astrophycial Observatory;

Kim Arcand

Kimberly Arcand received the 2016 Achievement Award for her work bringing innovative data-visualization projects to a worldwide audience. Her many projects include “From Earth to the Universe,” which shared astronomical images at more than 1,000 publicly accessible locations around the world, and a 3D model of an exploded star, the first ever based on real data. Efforts like these give diverse and underserved audiences opportunities to engage with astronomy and other sciences. Participants in Kimberly’s programs number in the tens of millions.

Pictured, left to right: Secretary David Skorton, Kimberly Arcand, Patricia Bartlett (Acting Assistant Secretary of Education), and Roger Brissenden (Deputy Director, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and Manager, Chandra X-ray Center, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory).

Friends of the National Zoo (FONZ) Department of Visitor Education and Volunteer Services
National Zoological Park

Laura Klopfer, Rob Cmarik, Nick Davis, Lucila Fernandez, Suzanne Hough, Erika Novak, Lois Phoebus, Rebecca Sohmer, Kirstin Schoeninger, and Caroline Winslow

The FONZ Department of Visitor Education and Volunteer Services, led by Laura Klopfer, received the 2016 Innovation Award for programming created to support the exhibition “Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.” Through an innovative volunteer-training model they built on the website Smithsonian External Learning, the team trained a staff of nearly 90 volunteers who hosted more than 80,000 visitors during the exhibit’s three-month run. The program engaged audiences with the critical issues of marine debris and ocean conservation, promoted discussion, and encouraged positive behavior change. Laura shares the award with Bob Cmarik, Nick Davis, Lucila Fernandez, Suzanne Hough, Erika Novak, Lois Phoebus, Rebecca Sohmer, Kirstin Schoeninger, and Caroline Winslow.

Pictured, top row: Lucila Fernandez, Laura Klopfer, Erika Novak, Bob Cmarik, Kirstin Schoeninger, Suzanne Hough, and Rebecca Sohmer. Bottom row: Dennis Kelly (Director, National Zoological Park), Lois Phoebus, Jackie Vinick (Corporate Partnership and Promotions Manager; FONZ Development, Membership and Marketing; National Zoological Park), Caroline Winslow, Lynn Mento (Executive Director, Friends of the National Zoo, National Zoological Park), and Secretary David Skorton.

Smithsonian Women's Committee

Many thanks to the Smithsonian Women’s Committee, which endowed the awards in honor of their 40th anniversary of service to the Smithsonian.

Pictured, left to right: Bunny Huebner, Anne Keiser, Cissel Gott Collins (SWC President 2016-2018), Laura Klopfer (Innovation Awardee), Harriet Fraunfelter, Erika Novak (Innovation Awardee), Kirstin Schoeninger (Innovation Awardee), Kimberly Arcand (Achievement Awardee), Emily Wiley, Marie Canny, Suzanne Noonan, Secretary David Skorton, and Edna Jones.

2015 Awardees

Sharon Ryan
(Former) Director of Public Programs
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI)

Sharon Ryan accepts her 2015 Achievement Award and delivers remarks about the educational impact of STRI in the local Panamanian community

Sharon leads public programs at Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama, which reaches over 100,000 citizens per year—almost a third of whom are public-school children and teachers. This award recognizes Sharon’s many accomplishments at STRI, her commitment to connecting Smithsonian resources with the local Panamanian community, and the impact of the biodiversity conservation exhibition and education program work she does in partnership with the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation (PARC) project. The variety of in-person and digital projects she implements at STRI raise awareness about the frog and fungus crisis in Panama, and has a direct impact on teachers and students.

Q?rius: The Coralyn W. Whitney Science Education Center
National Museum of Natural History (NMNH)

Dr. Skorton and Claudine Brown congratulate the entire Q?rius team, who received the 2015 Innovation Award

Q?rius (pronounced “curious”), is an experiential and evolving space located within the National Museum of Natural History, and online, that brings together the public (especially teens) with diverse science experts through programs and activities that expand understanding of science and culture. This award recognizes the Q?rius teams’ accomplishments in making a strong community impact for teachers and students. From their methodology, to program development and delivery; evaluation methods, and iterative design—Q’rius turns the museum ‘inside-out’ by providing direct access to NMNH’s experts and objects—both in-person and through digital media. Q?rius has changed the way the Museum works, changes visitors’ perceptions, and influences the museum education field.

2014 Awardees

Dr. Aron Crowell
Alaska Director & Archaeologist
Arctic Studies Center, NMNH

Aron Crowell 

Dr. Aron Crowell, Research Anthropologist and Alaska Director, Arctic Studies Center, National Museum of Natural History, received the Education Achievement Award for his consistent and outstanding performance in education. Aron works with Alaskan Natives to bring the Smithsonian to the community as a living resource, and to establish a network for knowledge exchanges involving diverse audiences. Here he is pictured with Smithsonian Secretary G. Wayne Clough, and Assistant Secretary for Education and Access, Claudine K. Brown.

Education Department
Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum

Cooper Hewitt 

The Education Department of the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, led by Caroline Payson, received an Education Innovation Award for demonstrating originality in bringing the Smithsonian to underserved audiences. Through the Design in the Classroom program and the Design Center in Harlem, the team continues the museum’s commitment to education even while the museum building is closed for renovations. Caroline shares the award with Sharon Mei Mah, Jessica Nunez, David Rios, James Reyes, Halima Johnson, Sarah Freeman, Kimberly Cisneros, Michelle Cheng, Vasso Giannopoulos, and Amanda Kesner.

at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden


Staff mentors of ARTLAB+ at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, led by Ryan Hill, received an Education Innovation Award as a Smithsonian-wide resource for new digital programming for teens—locally, nationally, and abroad. ARTLAB+ mentors model social, experimental, and self-directed learning to support learning that has real-world impact. Ryan shares the award with Amy Homma, Dawn Quill, Drew Doucette, Cody Coltharp, Ashley Meadows, and Linsay Deming.

Womens Committee 

We are especially grateful to the Smithsonian Women’s Committee, which endowed the Education Awards in honor of their 40th anniversary of service to the Smithsonian. We gratefully acknowledge President Emily Willey, Sue Beddow, Emily Huebner, Lucy Bremner, Elizabeth Welles, and Michelle Davis Schoenberger. 

2009 Awardees

Andrea Lowther
Director of Visitor Services, National Museum of American History; now Deputy Director, Experience Design, National Museum of American History

Andrea Lowther

Pictured: Andrea Lowther

Join the Student Sit-Ins
National Museum of American History

Student Sit Ins

Pictured, left to right: Azie Mira Dungey (Actor, NMAH), Elisabeth Kilday (Daily Programs Coordinator, NMAH), Samuel Xavier Carnegie (Actor, NMAH), Christopher Wilson (Writer and Director, African American History Program, NMAH), James Zimmerman (Senior Program Specialist, NMAH), Bruce Craig (Director of Research and Planning, SCEMS), Erin Nielsen Zimmer (Stage Manager, NMAH), Johanna Hanson Mutz (Stage Manager, NMAH).

2008 Awardees

Tim Grove
(Former) Education Specialist, National Air and Space Museum
National Air and Space Museum educator resources

Layer in Google Earth by the Global Volcanism Program, Department of Mineral Sciences, National Museum of Natural History
Global Volcanism Program website

2007 Awardees

Kara Blond
(Former) Exhibit Developer, Smithsonian National Zoological Park
Smithsonian National Zoological Park exhibitions

"Listening to Our Ancestors"  Electronic field trip by the National Museum of the American Indian
Listening to Our Ancestors website

2006 Awardees

Carol Wyrick
(Former) Director of Education, National Portrait Gallery
National Portrait Gallery’s educator resources

The Smithsonian Science Education Academy of Teachers by the National Science Resources Center (now the Smithsonian Science Education Center)
Smithsonian Science Education Center website

2005 Awardees

Mary Dussault
Deputy Director of the NASA-Smithsonian Universe Education Forum; now Principal Investigator for “Observing With NASA” and the MicroObservatory online telescopes at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

The Rio Grande/Rio Bravo Festival, Exhibition, Education Kit, and Web Site Project by the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage
El Rio Do-Your-Own-Exhibition Kit

2004 Awardees

Dorothy Dunn
(Former) Head of Education at the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum
Cooper-Hewitt’s educator resources

The Innovative Lives Program by the Lemelson Center, National Museum of American History
The Jerome and Dorothy Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation website

2019 Guidelines and Cover Sheet are available here.


Email completed application, not exceeding five pages, as a single PDF document no later than 5:00 pm EST, Friday, September 27, 2019 to:


Learn more about the awards.