The Digital Desert Library: Expanding Libraries into Living Laboratories through Cross-Cultural Development

The Digital Desert Library integrates highly diverse elements -- modern science and ancient mythology, mud-under-the-fingernails investigations and computer-based learning. The project is funded by the National Science Foundation NIE Program, and supported by New Mexico State University and the Smithsonian Institution´s Natural Partners Initiative.

It creates an environment for students and teachers from culturally diverse schools in New Mexico to integrate and share the wonders of their desert environment into classroom curriculum. By linking these schools to a pilot school in Virginia, the Smithsonian, and NMSU, the Digital Desert Library not only creates professional digital scientific, cultural and historical resources, it also creates powerful models for development and implementation of telecommunications-based science learning.

Project Goal: To enliven and expand students´learning about the natural world by providing digital tools to support experimentation in outdoor laboratories and opportunities for collaboration and digital publication that build on the natural links between curiosity, science, technology and creativity.

Project Objectives involve creative creation of materials, building interactive educational access, integration of digital and outdoor activities into the classroom, and national distribution of resources.

Project Objectives

Collaborative Creation
  • To create top quality electronic library resources through collaboration among diverse students and teachers with nationally-recognized specialists in information systems, multimedia, science, and education.
  • Digitize existing resources including:Smithsonian's Seeds of Change, NMSU's Desert Classroom, Survivors in the Sand, and the RuralInstitute cultural project.
  • Create new resources with teachers and students traditionally under-represented in the digital world.
  • Model collaboration to provide public access to scientific information, visuals, collections, databases, and video.
  • To create digital and real-world environments for asynchronous and synchronous learning and experimentation across time, location and cultures.
  • Provide an environment for interactive electronic collaboration and scientific exploration to minority populations.
  • Integrate hands-on exploration through school gardens into the DDL.
  • Develop student collaborations, across the country, to address common problems, exchange ideas, approaches, results and applications.
  • To model adaptation of existing exemplary, standards-based science curricula with local, real-world learning in multicultural classrooms through digital technologies and outdoor teaching gardens.
  • Provide Professional development that encourages integration and adaptation of existing exemplary curricula to local and cultural needs.
  • Publish scenarios for building and implementing school gardens for every student.
  • To actively distribute both library resources and successful models for development and implementation to classrooms, systemic initiative programs, educators, museums and other storehouses of public knowledge.
  • Distribute DDL via: Internet, Smithsonian's Natural Partners Initiative, journals and conferences and systemic initiative programs.
  • Distribute DDL to classrooms, educators, museums and other storehouses of public knowledge.
  • To institutionalize the Digital Desert Library, development process and implementation strategies to ensure sustainability and expansion of the processes after this funding is complete.
  • Institutionalize development and implementation strategies within Smithsonian's Natural Partners Initiative, systemic change initiatives, and NMSU's Extension and 4-H programs.


A unique partnership of the Smithsonian Institution, New Mexico State University and five New Mexico Schools focuses on discovering the wonder of the Natural and Cultural world.