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Many Thanks to the 2021 Smithsonian Affiliate Digital Learning and Engagement Interns

Best wishes and many thanks to Stephanie Leow, LiLi Siedare and Adria Hollis, three interns who were assigned to The Rockwell this summer to create digital educational resources Smithsonian Learning Lab  that will supplement four of the Museum’s most popular school tours.

As a Smithsonian Affiliate, The Rockwell was eager to be part of the pilot year of this virtual internship program, offered by the Smithsonian and Emerson Collective. This program aims to offer interns from underestimated communities the chance to draw upon the Smithsonian Institution’s collections and networks, fostering a new and better understanding of American history while empowering a new generation of change agents.

screenshot of smithsonian learning lab website

Screenshot of Smithsonian Learning Lab website

The Smithsonian Affiliate Digital Learning and Engagement Internship, structured as an entirely virtual experience, introduced 75 rising sophomores, juniors and seniors in college to the impact of museum work and empowered students to address complex global challenges. Students were selected from an applicant pool of 1,595 young people and 307 colleges and universities. As a cohort, they represent almost 60 colleges and universities and worked from June 14 to August 6 in communities spanning from Washington, D.C., to Alaska. This internship was a paid opportunity to help museums make strides in their digital reach, while interns learned about the inner workings of a Smithsonian-affiliated museum and its community impact. 

Interns Stephanie Leow, LiLi Siedare, and Adria Hollis were assigned to The Rockwell, and spent many hours collaborating to create digital educational resources that will supplement a few of The Rockwell’s most popular virtual and in-person school tours: Westward Expansion tour for Grade 2, Haudenosaunee tour for Grade 4, and Day of the Dead tours for Grades 3 and 6. The Day of the Dead collections are also offered in Spanish. These resources contain artworks from The Rockwell’s collection and can be found on the Smithsonian’s Learning Lab website which sees 50,000-70,000 users each month, including students, educators and families. The Rockwell will steer educators to these resources online, while getting the Museum’s collection of American art in front of many new users. 

In Their Own Words: Meet the 2021 Interns     

portrait of young woman smiling

Adria Hollis

Adria Hollis | Senior at Rust College, Major in Sociology

“Growing up as a young, Black woman in a small, particularly rural area in Central Mississippi has definitely posed its challenges. From often being overlooked for educational and/or professional opportunities due to being a young woman of color to people questioning the validity my educational attainments because I attended a smaller school district, I’ve always been driven to persist, block out the noise, and work hard to get the job done. As a young girl, these experiences initially discouraged me; however, with the support of my family and community, I opted to dive deeper into the sociological realm of my experiences with the hope of changing the narrative and rewriting the notion that has, since the inception of this country, placed minority Americans at a social, economic, and political disadvantage. Thus, this sparked a desire to learn more about sociology, as a discipline, as well as how people use it in different facets of life to shape personal ideologies, social constructs, and the perception of reality. Currently, as a junior studying Sociology at an HBCU, my sociological works and research are primarily centered around critically assessing the theoretical and philosophical framework of sociology, as well as analyzing the influence of macro and micro aspects of social change and social interaction on communities of color. I aim to use this education to be of positive change to my community and culture, while inspiring future generations to do the same.”

portrait of young woman smiling

Stephanie Leow

Stephanie Leow | Senior at Georgetown University, Majors in Linguistics and English, Spanish Minor

“I grew up in a household built on education. For my parents, scholarships for American universities were tickets to J-1 Visas, and becoming educators secured their immigration from Guyana to the United States. They occupied opposite ends of the U.S. education system. My father taught at a prestigious university, and I constantly heard snippets of “depths of processing” and “pedagogical implications” from his field of applied linguistics. My mother, on the other hand, taught at public high schools with wide income disparities; from her, I heard about students working long afternoon shifts and recent immigrants with little support in ESL classes. My classrooms existed not only at school but also at home, where I learned meaningful lessons about education: how students learn and why some students do not learn. At school, I reveled in new knowledge, while at home, I wondered why school was not a pathway to success for everyone.

“Educators have the opportunity to directly help hundreds of students, but I have always felt a tension between making individual impacts and driving systemic change in education. I want my reach to extend beyond papers and discussions within the classroom, beyond my college students. Professorship will give me the resources to do research on writing pedagogy and formulate the best teaching practices and curriculum designs; however, academia can be confined to a chamber of lofty voices, often the voices of other elite academics. I must consider bigger pictures of how pedagogical research can exist outside of academic journals and be applied to the very classrooms that need it. With a disposition towards social justice, I want to focus my research on issues of identity and language diversity in the classroom, serving underrepresented populations of students.”

portrait of young woman smiling

LiLi Siedare

LiLi Siedare | Junior at Reed College, Major in History

“As an Asian American adoptee from China and having been raised by white parents, I have always had a shaky and uneasy relationship with race. My childhood mornings consisted of my father dragging eight-year-old me to the local Chinese Language School in Bath, England, our home at the time, where I scoffed at the language and culture. Age has blessed me with a more mature perspective of what my parents would try to give me as a child and, while I am grateful for their efforts, in truth, I believe there are some inherent and ingrained flaws in biracial adoption that deprived me of a mutual understanding. There are many differences that can separate parents from their children, however, race is a large factor that cannot be mimicked in a way for white people to understand. It has always intrigued me how there are raw and unfiltered experiences I have felt because of my race that they will and can never understand. Attempting to explain to my white mother how my younger self hated the way my eyes were so small felt futile and lonely. Though she did listen with an open heart and open arms, my feelings could not be translated to her experience as a white person.

“I’ve always seen this divide in experiences as being transferable to larger aspects of life. No matter how much you can care for someone or care about a cause, there are some parts of their life that cannot be understood by yourself. As soon as that becomes accepted, you open yourself up to becoming a greater listener and a better ally to that person’s needs.”

Smithsonian Learning Lab Collections created through this internship:

About Smithsonian Learning Lab

Smithsonian Learning Lab is an interactive website for the discovery and creative use of the Smithsonian’s digital collections and tools—more than a million images, videos, texts, audio recordings and activities. More information is available at learninglab.si.edu.

About Emerson Collective

Emerson Collective focuses on creating systemic change in education, immigration, climate and cancer research and treatment. More information is available at emersoncollective.com.

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