Smithsonian Youth Summit Online

Smithsonian and Affiliates Connect Students Across the County to Experience Freedom Riders History

Webcasting Case Study


Museum, K-12 Education


Webcast Production


Smithsonian Institution and the National Endowment for the Humanities


Teachers & students across the country interact with Smithsonian experts, history makers & an award-winning filmmaker — in-person and via online webcast.

The Smithsonian Institution, the world’s largest museum complex and research organization, offers a wide range of programs and educational outreach initiatives originating from a host of different museum offices in the advancement of its mission: “increase and diffusion of knowledge.”


This Smithsonian Institution and Smithsonian Affiliate museums wanted to find a way to bring students across the country together to discuss history with the people who were witnesses and activists on the front lines of the fight for justice in an important chapter in the story of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement.

Solution: National Youth Summit Online

LearningTimes, in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution, developed and produced the National Youth Summit – the 50th Anniversary of the Freedom Rides webcast.

The live event took place in Washington, D.C. with six extraordinary speakers. Freedom Rides veterans Congressman John Lewis, Diane Nash, Jim Zwerg, and Reverend James Lawson shared how they became involved in the Freedom Rides and how they forever affected their lives. They joined filmmaker Stanley Nelson (writer, producer, and director of the new PBS documentary Freedom Riders) and scholar Raymond Arsenault to discuss the meaning of the Freedom Rides and the role of young people in shaping America’s past and future.

The discussion in Washington was joined by five online student audiences at Smithsonian Affiliate museums around the nation as well as by registered viewers of the webcast.

These Regional Town Halls took place at:

  • The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, Birmingham, Alabama
  • The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Heinz History Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Japanese American National Museum, Los Angeles, California
  • Arab American Museum, Dearborn, Michigan

Once the live event in Washington DC was completed, students at each affiliate location were able to have further conversations with their local Freedom Rider(s).

Teacher guides were created to help prepare the students to fully participate in the webcast and were made available on the event website to download.

Event sponsors included the National Museum of American History, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, in collaboration with Smithsonian Affiliations and American Experience/WGBH.


The students were able to engage in conversation with scholars, public historians, and most importantly, one another in this incredible webcast that joined live audiences in six cities around the nation.

Attendance was outstanding, with over 14,000 people watching and participating through Q&A sessions in the webcast. The registered viewers logged in from over 370 locations, representing 45 states plus Washington DC, Guam, Puerto Rico, Canada, and the UK.

“We’re still basking in the glow of last week’s amazing events. We couldn’t be more thrilled, and there are already meetings planned to begin strategizing how we’re going to do our next event,” shared Megan Smith, Education Specialist, Smithsonian National Museum of American History.