Education was already a top priority for Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie G. Bunch III, but when covid-19 closed his museums, he realized that the institution’s rich offerings could meet a new demand. He set out to find partners to help make them accessible to more Americans.

Enter PBS chief executive Paula Kerger and PBS LearningMedia, public television’s digital platform of free, standards-based content for pre-K through 12th grade. Launched 10 years ago, the website has become a valued resource for millions of students and teachers. On Tuesday, the Smithsonian and PBS announced that the website will feature some of the institution’s best digital science, art and history education content.

“The Smithsonian has so many resources, but even we don’t have broad enough shoulders to do all of this,” Bunch said of the partnership. “The pandemic has given us the opportunity to fill a void. It has accelerated where we wanted to go. [PBS] gives us a great portal to do that.”

The partnership emphasizes each organization’s strengths, Kerger said.

“We have an infrastructure in place,” she said, noting that the platform allows teachers to search for specific content and “grab it and use it” in their classrooms, whether in person or virtually. “A lot of the educational content the Smithsonian has is different. This is a real collaboration.”

PBS LearningMedia aligns its content — including videos, interactive activities, documents and lesson plans — to Common Core and national and state standards, and teachers can search by subject, standards and grade levels. Some resources are targeted specifically to teachers, including how-tos on remote learning and a virtual teachers lounge. Other material can be used for in-school lessons and extracurricular learning.

The Smithsonian has educational programs that explore current events and an interdisciplinary approach that many teachers and students enjoy, Bunch said.

“I’m committed to the contemporary issues that the Smithsonian can help us understand, like race, identity and climate change,” he said. “And the Smithsonian is really good at crossing disciplines, having education programs that have art and history and science wedded together. Where better than the Smithsonian to blur those lines to enrich education?”

Material from the Smithsonian includes its “Secrets of the Sea” interactive programs and videos about coral reefs and the scientists who study the ocean ecosystems, as well as the National Air and Space Museum’s award-winning video series “STEM in 30,” a science program aimed at middle school students. The National Museum of African American History and Culture’s “Talking About Race” content will also be featured.

The website will showcase material already created by the Smithsonian, but the partners envision new collaborations.

“I hope this is the beginning of a rich partnership,” Kerger said. “We continue to strategize and anticipate more work we can do together.”