Teaching China with the Smithsonian Online Educational Resources

Teaching China with the Smithsonian is a WordPress website that integrates a wide variety of educational techniques designed to inspire students to learn about Chinese art, culture, and history. In addition to an extensive array of lesson plans, student-focused content includes thirty-two videos as well as interactive maps and a timeline that spans 6,000 years of Chinese art. The educational resources are all based on 42 objects from the museum’s collection. 

The goal was to create a new Teacher Resources section that provides online learning content to teachers and students through engaging and interactive media. The project nearly doubled in size when additional features were requested. All of the new content had to work seamlessly within the established framework, be mobile friendly and meet WCAG 2.1 Level AA Compliance.  

Teachers and their students may choose from three different ways of searching for content:

  1. Explore by Object: Images and complete descriptions of each object provide students and teachers with an overview of the Chinese art collection. All content is augmented with hypertext definitions and pronunciation keys for selected words and phrases.
  2. Explore by Dynasty: Background content is provided for ten dynasties as well as Neolithic and Modern China. Students and teachers can learn the differences among the dynasties and interact with the art from that period.
  3. Explore by Theme: Seven themes (i.e. Traditions and Belief Systems) define important concepts that are explored throughout the history of Chinese art, history, and culture. Each theme is paired with related Lesson Plans.

To further engage audiences, three types of Interactive Images include Annotated Images, 360º Images, and 3D Models. The Annotated Images offer hot spots with detailed information that explain a charcoal scroll, a Thangka painting, and an ornate gown. The 360º Images feature three types of vessels that students can rotate to see all of the details on each work of art. The 3D Models provide an opportunity to thoroughly explore three beautiful objects from all angles. 

An Interactive Map locates selected works of art as well as a variety of art and craft traditions on a map of China. 

A Story Map delivers annotated content to describe a handscroll dating to the Ming Dynasty. Details of the painting and calligraphy are highlighted to explain the story and technique used to create this epic work of art.

An Interactive Timeline features over one hundred images and descriptions placed on an interactive timeline that describes China’s history from 7,000 BCE to the present day.