Teacher Sign Up
Sign In
Monday Morning Ready04.22.2016
Jumpstart Your Week!

From the majestic towers of Monument Valley to the stars painted on the ceiling of Grand Central Station, awe-inspiring wonders are all around. Sometimes taking a moment to stop and appreciate something like the Grand Canyon or a clear, starry night can make you feel like a tiny part of a vast universe swirling around. And that feeling of being a small speck might actually make you a kinder, more generous person.... < read more >
Grade 3-4

What makes you feel kinder and more generous? Why do you think it makes you feel this way?

Grade 5-6

Have you ever felt small in the face of nature? If so, where were you? If not, name a place that you think might make you feel that way. Compare your answer to your classmates' answers. What do they all have in common?

Grade 7-8

Do you think everyone is awed and inspired by the same things? Why or why not?

Grade 9-10

The article mentions several benefits of experiencing awe. For example, it may boost your immune system, make you feel more creative and make you feel that you have more time to get things done. If so, why don't people seek out more awe-inspiring experiences? How do you think corporations would benefit if they provided these opportunities for their employees?

Write a Sensory Poem


  1. Introduce students to the concept of a sensory poem. Explain that this type of poem uses the five senses to describe something. The purpose of a sensory poem is to relate the emotional connection between the writer and his or her chosen topic.
  2. Remind students that the article talked about the many ways that awe-inspiring places can affect people. Encourage students to think of a place that affects them in this way. If possible, instruct students to find or take a photograph of this place. If not, have them draw a picture.
  3. Then have students write a sensory poem that both describes the place and tells how it makes them feel. Instruct students to use the following format for their poems: I see, I feel, I hear, I smell, I taste, I wonder, I think, I am.
  4. Give students time to complete their poems.


Invite students to share their poems with the class. Instruct students to identify the place featured in each poem and the overall feeling each author was trying to express. Encourage classmates to identify what they thought was the best line of each poem. 


Grades 3-4:
As a class, evaluate the overall emotional appeal of each poem. Invite authors to explain why they chose specific sensory words to describe the place and how it made them feel. 

Grades 5-6:
Divide the class into small groups. Have groups evaluate the overall emotional appeal of each poem. Instruct authors to explain why they chose specific sensory words to describe the place or express how it made them feel. Have group members brainstorm a list of other words the author could have used. Encourage them to discuss how using some of these other words could have changed the tone of the poem.   

Grades 7-8:
As a class, analyze how the author's word choices and sentence structure affected the tone of each poem. After all poems have been read, tell students to think about the poems as a whole. Which type of place did students write about most often? Overall, how did these places make students feel? Which characteristics are most likely to turn a place into an awe-inspiring location?

Grades 9-10:
Divide the class into small groups. Have groups evaluate the overall emotional appeal of each poem. Then instruct them to analyze how the author's word choices and sentence structure affected the tone of each poem. Which sensory words were used most often? Which were most effective? How did the author relay sensory or emotional details through the length and structure of sentences?

Collecting Their Thoughts: Telling a Paintings Story
These Smithsonian lesson plans call upon students to express their unique responses to art by writing essays inspired by paintings in a museum.

Art to Zoo: Using Museums to Inspire Student Writing
Use the lessons in this Smithsonian teaching guide to show students how to tap into the tales stored in museums. Students will use what they learn as springboards for various forms of writing.

Michael Benson’s Awe-Inspiring Views of the Solar System
Read this Smithsonian article to see how a photographer painstakingly pieces together raw data collected by spacecraft to produce color-perfect images of the sun, planets and their many moons.

The Evolving Universe
If you really want to feel small and awed, explore this exhibit from the National Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. Take a mind-bending journey from present-day Earth to the far reaches of space and the distant past —all they way back to the beginning of the universe.

Primordial Landscapes: Iceland Revealed
Explore this Smithsonian exhibit in which photographer Feodor Pitcairn and poet Ari Trausti Guðmundsson reveal a land of fire, ice, hardy life and natural beauty. Experience the remote beauty of Iceland, a land sculpted by the elements and forged by on-going geologic activity.

Nature’s Best Photography Presents: Best of the Best
Enjoy 20 years of nature’s finest moments as featured in the Windland Smith Rice International Awards “Best of the Best” photo exhibition. This Smithsonian collection features photographs from around the globe, including dramatic landscapes, exciting wildlife behavior and surprising glimpses from Earth’s icy peaks to its mysterious ocean depths.