howtosmile is dedicated to providing high-quality science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) activities for informal educators via the Internet. Activities are always free of charge.
howtosmile provides an online collection of STEM activities for informal educators and learners. The term "informal" means any learning environment outside of formal schooling, such as museums, zoos, aquaria, technology centers, afterschool or outdoor education programs, community centers, and homeschool environments.
The objective of howtosmile is to gather, organize, and disseminate STEM activities.howtosmile creates and hosts descriptive information, referred to as metadata, for each activity in its library. These records enable users to find and learn more about howtosmile learning resources, which may reside anywhere across the Internet. Learning resources (e.g., activities) that are contributed to howtosmile are usually not housed on NSDL computers or storage systems. Rather, catalog records about the resources are created and hosted by Howtosmile.org, while the resources themselves are held and managed by their owners or providers.
howtosmile resources submitted should be appropriate for school-aged children, and may include interactive exhibits, multimedia activities, hands-on manipulatives, downloadable instructions for experiments, outdoor field guides, engineering challenges, or any other activities that get kids excited about math and science. Because howtosmile resources will often require no advanced knowledge of science and math, the resources will also often be appropriate for adults with no formal training in the STEM disciplines. howtosmile activities may include online or offline science activities and limited support materials. We welcome activities that include everyday science topics as well as topics that engage interest in emerging areas of STEM. Resources must be freely accessible within a Web browsing environment without specialized equipment or software. There should be no cost, licensing fee, nor subscription fee associated with accessing howtosmile resources. Visitors to howtosmile resources should not be required to provide extensive personal information (meaning beyond an email address) in order to access howtosmile resources. The base language of howtosmile resources is English, but we welcome (and can accommodate) resources in other languages as well. howtosmile will favor those activities that are also accessible by people with disabilities. howtosmile resources may be in any Science, Math, Engineering and Technology (STEM) discipline, and may also be interdisciplinary. Sources of content are typically those developed by science/technology museums and centers, professional organizations, universities, and grant-funded projects, as well as reputable websites, organizations, and individuals. Publishers, educational software developers, and other digital libraries may contribute content as well.
In general, howtosmile is looking for learning resources that are activities with the following features: fun and engaging, rich in STEM content and appropriate for school-aged children and lifelong learners, free (no cost to access; available in the public domain), and reflective of sound pedagogy, i.e., scientifically accurate. The origin (authorship) of the activity must be attributed (including contact information), ideally by person and organization, whether or not this author is the same as the contributing organization. Ideally, howtosmile activities will also include information relevant to understanding or targeting the user including: education level, skills required, learning objectives, instructional strategies, alignment with educational standards, list of materials (including suppliers for uncommon materials), safety precautions, and an estimate of the time required for the activity. An activity that qualifies for submission should be intuitive and easy to use with minimal preparation time, easy to navigate and adapt for individual differences and needs. The activity should also engage and motivate learners, stimulating curiosity and encouraging them to seek more information on a topic. Open-ended and inquiry-based activities are highly encouraged. Activities that have been evaluated for content, usability, and vetted by educators are preferred. Activities that are online interactives must also include any technical specifications such as Mac/Windows compatibility (including OS versions) special software, hardware, plug-ins, incompatibilities, and/or file download requirements and sizes. If the use of an online activity is complex, a clear comprehensive downloadable user guide must be available. howtosmile activities and associated software or plug-ins should be available free of charge or subscription fee, and should also be free of advertising (though the logos of contributing organizations will display in the search for activities on howtosmile, and there is also a place to note funding organizations).
Judgment of appropriateness of activities for inclusion in howtosmile is the responsibility of the howtosmile Editorial Team. howtosmile users are actively encouraged to suggest and submit activities for inclusion in howtosmile. The Editorial Team welcomes recommendation of individual activities and overtures from both small and large collections of activities. We support contributions from individuals, groups, projects, and organizations. The benefits of contributing activities to howtosmile include: exposure through attribution of activity sources, discovery through sophisticated browsing and search mechanisms, encouraging of sharing and reuse of resources in the STEM education and research communities, and technical support from the NSDL and howtosmile development teams.
Accessioning is the process of incorporating new materials into a library or archive. In the context of howtosmile, accessioning refers to the process by which new activities are accepted and integrated into howtosmile, through introduction into the library of structured, descriptive information about them. Deaccessioning, or weeding, is the process of removing materials from a pathway, rendering them no longer discoverable. Deaccessioning of activities is occasionally necessary for the maintenance of a useful and reliable repository. It is also used in the case of a change in quality or usefulness of a resource previously accessioned in howtosmile. To be eligible for inclusion in Howtomsile.org, activities must be appropriate to fulfilling SMILE’s Mission and adhere sufficiently to howtosmile's Quality Guidelines. It is also the responsibility of the contributor of the activity to alert the howtosmile Editorial Team of changes in a contributed activity or contributing organization with respect to ownership or ability to adhere to any aspect of the howtosmile Collections Policy. Acceptance and accessioning of activities for howtosmile is at the discretion of the howtosmile Editorial Team, who is solely responsible for its content. Conversely, the howtosmile Development Team determines and judges if and when an activity will be deaccessioned. The howtosmile Editorial Team may, at its sole discretion, remove an activity from howtosmile if it is: deemed inappropriate, i.e., it falls outside of the scope of the collections policy, such as quality guidelines, is no longer supported, includes insufficient metadata, aspects of it are broken, or incompatible with current software versions, the contributor has requested removal, the activity has been found to contain plagiarism or copyright infringements or NSDL cannot technically support it. Any activity can be readmitted into the Pathway upon satisfactory evidence (in judgment by the howtosmile Editorial Team) that the contributor or the activity is again within scope of the Collections Policy.
Creators/institutions retain all intellectual property rights with regard to content (e.g., activities) contributed to howtosmile. Creators of metadata agree that howtosmile may modify or reformat metadata to function uniformly in howtosmile. Metadata are displayed publicly to users by howtosmile and unless previously agreed to otherwise, howtosmile, NSDL, or their partner institutions may make metadata available through batch dissemination. The use of metadata within the scope of howtosmile must be noncommercial and not generate revenue for the service provider.
This document has been developed by the howtosmile Editorial Team and continues to be updated as the project develops. The Editorial Team is responsible for its content and maintenance. The document will be reviewed and revised as necessary to reflect changes in the capabilities, practices, and procedures of howtosmile. The howtosmile Editorial team is not responsible for informing all contributors to the project of any changes to this document, but will make an effort to inform participants in the event that there are major changes to howtosmile. Neither the howtosmile Editorial Team, nor the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, nor NSDL and affiliated institutions or agencies, will be responsible for any personal or financial damages resulting from association with howtosmile or the use of it. For further information or to address specific questions, please contact us.