SEEC opened in 1988 with one center located in the National Museum of American History with 32 children, 7 teachers and a budget of about $150,000. In 1991 SEEC added programming for infants and toddlers, and in 1998 a licensed Kindergarten was added. Today SEEC has 3 sites, two inside the walls of the National Museum of Natural History and one inside the National Museum of American History, serving 135 children with 48 staff and a budget of over $2.5 million. In October 2013 SEEC celebrated its 25th anniversary, but from the beginning one thing was clear: this was going to be much more than a place that cared for the children of Smithsonian employees. This was going to be a model laboratory school with a museum-based curriculum; a place that addressed the Smithsonian mandate for sharing knowledge.
Early in our history Dee Carlstrom was hired to develop a curriculum, Museum Magic, based on a vision of monthly themes that crossed the entire Smithsonian Institution and utilized resources from throughout the museums. While SEEC has transitioned to using an emergent curriculum model in our daily practice, the Museum Magic curriculum continues to serve as a resource to our faculty and to other early childhood educators in schools and museums across the country
In 2014 the Center for Innovation in Early Learning (CIEL) was formed to house the outreach and professional development work being done by SEEC, both internally and externally. SEEC continues to develop its curriculum and programs and is a national resource for high quality early education and programming for young children in museums and classrooms.