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Research

Despite the nation’s history of immigration, incorporation, and importation of people to the place we now call the United States, most school curricula leave out key truths and themes about how people become American and live in the nation together. Becoming US provides resources that change how migration and immigration are learned. In 2014 the museum embarked on a pan-institutional journey to research, document, interpret, and present the history of the United States through the lens of migration and immigration. This effort resulted in an exhibition in the museum’s The Nation We Build Together wing called Many Voices, One Nation; the scholarly book Many Voices, One Nation: Material Culture Reflections on Race and Migration in the United States; and Becoming US, the national education curricula.

Becoming US is based on rigorous research that includes:

  • a survey of all 50 states’ social studies standards and interviews with states’ curriculum developers, investigating when and how migration and immigration history is currently taught;
  • a survey of Smithsonian Affiliations museums and interviews with museum educators to identify existing resources and projects related to the teaching of the topic;
  • focus groups with teachers, students, and museum educators to better understand their needs and discover how new curricula could support them;
  • pilot projects in Los Angeles, California, and in Montgomery County, Maryland;
  • an Open Space convening with a cross section of artists, teachers, curriculum writers, anthropologists, historians, educators, and scholars to address how best to engage youth in learning about migration and immigration history; and
  • a partnership with the University of Maryland’s College of Education to conduct evaluations with 25 teachers on how Becoming US supports their current social studies teaching.

Team and Collaborators

In addition to the above research, Becoming US was guided by a team of experts in the field of education: Maureen Costello, director of Teaching Tolerance; Kathy Swan, PhD, associate professor of Curriculum and Instruction, University of Kentucky; Josh Radinsky, PhD, associate professor of Curriculum and Instruction, University of Illinois at Chicago; Margie Ortiz, Department of Interpretation, National Park Service Headquarters; Naomi Coquillon, senior advisor, Informal Learning and Experience Design, Library of Congress; and Bill Yeingst and Nancy Davis, curators emeriti, National Museum of American History.

Throughout the research and development, Becoming US partnered with a number of different organizations, including the University of Maryland, the National Park Service, the Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access, the National Museum of the American Indian, the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, and Smithsonian Affiliations. The Becoming US team has presented its work and received feedback at national conferences such as the National Council for the Social Studies, the 1882 Foundation annual symposium, and the American Association for State and Local History.

Becoming US is supported with grants from the Smithsonian’s Understanding the American Experience Consortium, Youth Access Grants, Smithsonian-University of Maryland Seed Research Grants, the National Park Service, the Kettering Foundation, and the Segal Family Foundation.

The creators of this project are Magdalena Mieri, director of Latino Program and Civic Engagement Projects; Lauren Safranek, project coordinator, Division of Cultural and Community Life; Orlando Serrano, Jr., PhD, manager of Youth and Teacher Programs; Jordan Grant, Digital Experience specialist; Emily Chiariello, independent curriculum writer; Leslie Poster and Judie Evans, editors; and an amazing group of interns who spent numerous hours conducting research, identifying images, and facilitating meetings.