In 2007 I went to the Galapagos for two weeks, courtesy of the Toyota Motor Sales Corporation. We saw wildlife, traveled between the islands, and visited local schools. It made me a better teacher of evolution, and it was after a visit to a demonstration farm in the Galapagos that I first had the idea for our school’s high altitude garden project.
In 2009 I went to Finland to work on an archaeology expedition. We studied 5000 year old hunter-gatherers. I learned how to blog from the field on that trip and I learned enough about archaeology to contemplate tackling the origins of Marin County’s puzzling stone line.
The same year I went to the Mojave Desert with NASA astrobiologists to study cyanobacteria. That trip gave me some ideas for field-oriented student research like my school’s artificial hypolith project. In 2010 and 2012 I went to Namibia with the same NASA astrobiologists. In 2011 I went to Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates) with them. In 2016 I went to the Himalayas with them.
Also, in 2015 I went to sea with the NOAA Teacher at Sea Program, and in 2016 I was an Earthwatch Teach Earth Fellow in Costa Rica. In 2017 I attended the Forestry Institute for Teachers at the University of California’s forestry camp near Quincy.
Some teachers do this sort of thing all the time. There are about two dozen programs that will send a teacher overseas for free. Here are some that I’ve learned about. Since someone else is paying, you need to have a very strong plan for how the trip will help your students learn. Please remember that program details and web sites change.
A good resource about this lifestyle is Lillie Marshall’s blog “Teaching Traveling” https://www.teachingtraveling.com
Another good resource is my book. If you are a teacher who wants to add some overseas travel to your life, this book includes the insights and experience of five champion teacher-travelers. They’ve been to all seven continents for free. One of them has been to over two dozen countries. One of them became the person who reads your applications, and she tells us what she looks for when she does that. And, it addresses what happens after the trip – how teachers bring their travel experiences home to impact their classrooms and their lives.
Science, Ocean and Polar Programs:
PolarTREC sends teachers to the Arctic and to Antarctica. It is funded by the National Science Foundation and administered by the Arctic Research Consortium of the United States. The focus is on science. I went to Finland and Alaska with this program in 2009. www.polartrec.com
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Teacher at Sea program places teachers on oceanographic vessels. http://teacheratsea.noaa.gov I did this in 2015, off the coast of northern California. The whole time I was within 50 miles of my house, but it was a different world.
Dr. Robert Ballard’s Ocean Exploration Trust has a year-long program for teachers called the Science Communication Fellowship. You attend a training workshop on the campus of the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography learning science communication methods and then spend a few weeks on board the trust’s research vessel Nautilus. The program pays for travel, food and lodging. http://www.oceanexplorationtrust.org/
The Earthwatch Institute offers corporate-sponsored fellowships to teachers on some of their expeditions in the field. www.earthwatch.org. I went to Costa Rica to study sea turtles with this excellent organization in 2016.
The National Geographic Society and Lindblad Expeditions have a program called the Grosvenor Teacher Fellowship Program which sends teachers on a summer cruise to the Arctic to find new ways to bring geographic awareness and ocean stewardship to their classrooms. https://www.nationalgeographic.org/education/programs/grosvenor-teacher-fellows
NASA’s Spaceward Bound has sent teachers to extreme environments like deserts, mountaintops, and the Arctic to participate in astrobiology/ Mars analog field camps. I went to the Mojave Desert in 2009, to Namibia in 2010 and 2012, and to Abu Dhabi in 2011 with this outstanding program. It has now morphed into a movement, and I went to the Himalayas in 2016 with Spaceward Bound. http://spacewardbound.astrobiologyindia.in/
The Antarctic Geological Drilling Program ANDRILL has sent teachers to Antarctica. This program seems to be discontinued for now, but sometimes these programs get brought back. www.andrill.org/arise
Project 2041 sends teachers, students, and others to Antarctica but most of them are paying their own way through fundraising. http://2041.com
The Integrated Ocean Drilling Program’s Teacher at Sea Program places teachers on the drill ship JOIDES Resolution. http://www.iodp-usio.org/Education/TAS.html
The Monterey Bay Aquarium and Research Institute’s EARTH Program brings groups of twenty teachers together in locations like Hawaii to develop oceanography curricula and learn about ocean science. They pay expenses and a stipend. http://www.mbari.org/earth
NASA’s SETI Institute sends teachers on nighttime infrared astronomy flights up to 45,000′. http://www.seti.org/epo/SOFIA
Northrop Grumman’s ECO Classroom sends teams of four science teachers from the same district to a biological field station in Costa Rica. http://www.northropgrumman.com/CorporateResponsibility/CorporateCitizenship/Education/ECOClassroom/Pages/default.aspx/index.html
Forestry Institute for Teachers: You basically go hiking around in the forest – and learn to appreciate trees, soil, streams, wood, wildlife and fire in ways you’d never think! I did this excellent program in 2017. Only California teachers are eligible for it, but if you teach in California they probably have room for you – over 2,600 teachers have done this program. It shows; you learn a lot from it and bring a lot of things back to the classroom. I really recommend this one! http://www.forestryinstitute.org/.
The paid Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship sends you to Washington, D.C. for a year to work on Capitol Hill influencing science education policy. https://science.energy.gov/wdts/einstein/
Programs in Asia, Latin America and Africa:
The Japan-U.S. Teacher Exchange Program for Education for Sustainable Development goes to Japan. http://www.iie.org/Programs/ESD
WorldSavvy has sent teachers and students to Bangladesh to study climate change, and to Peru. I don’t think they do that currently; they might start again. http://worldsavvy.org
The Keizai Koho Center Teacher Fellowship goes to Japan. http://www.us-japan.org/programs/kkc
The Korea Society’s Summer Fellowship in Korean Studies for American Educators goes to Korea. http://www.koreasociety.org
The U.S. Department of State and Amigos de las Americas’ Youth Ambassadors Program sends teachers and students on all-expenses-paid trips to South American countries. https://amigosinternational.org/amigos-programs/youth-ambassadors/
The Toyota International Teacher Program has sent teachers overseas to Costa Rica, South Africa, and the Galapagos. The focus is on environmental issues. I went to the Galapagos in 2007, but as of this writing the program has been discontinued. http://www.iie.org/Programs/Toyota-International-Teacher-Program
The Fulbright Teachers for Global Classrooms Program (Sponsored by the U.S. State Department and administered by IREX) sends teachers to places such as Brazil, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Morocco and Ukraine for 2 – 3 weeks. https://www.irex.org/project/fulbright-teachers-global-classrooms-program-fulbright-tgc
The TOMODACHI Toshiba Science & Technology Leadership Academy is an annual one-week, cross-cultural educational leadership program for 16 high school students and eight teachers from Japan and the U.S. In August, program participants from both countries will work together to develop a disaster-resilient, smart community of the future. Apply May online – http://tomodachi-japan.com/
Programs in Europe:
The Goethe Institute sends social studies teachers to Germany. http://www.goethe.de/ins/us/lp/prj/top/enindex.htm
Oxbridge Academic Programs (to Oxford, Cambridge, Paris, etc.) has teacher seminars that you normally pay for but there are free fellowships available too. http://www.oxbridgeprograms.com/Educator-Journey
The English-Speaking Union of the United States’ TLab Program sends teachers to Britain: http://www.esuus.org/esu/programs/study_abroad_for_teachers/
The Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching Program http://www.fulbrightteacherexchange.org is more than just a study tour – you go abroad for up to a semester.
The U.S. Department of Education administers the Fulbright-Hayes Seminars Abroad. Most of these are for social studies, humanities and language teachers. http://www2.ed.gov/programs/iegpssap/applicant.html
The National Endowment for the Humanities offers many summer seminars and institutes overseas for school teachers. http://www.neh.gov/divisions/education/summer-programs
The Gilder Lerman Institute offers summer seminars at various universities for teachers of history, English, social studies and for school librarians. https://www.gilderlehrman.org/content/teacher-seminars
The Fund for Teachers gives grants for self-designed summer sabbaticals. http://www.fundforteachers.org
Some of the programs listed above are administered by the Institute of International Education, regardless of who’s paying the bill. So, it pays to get to know this organization. http://www.iie.org
Home Exchange Programs:
Homelink International is not just for teachers, but it and other organizations like it facilitate home exchanges between members, some of whom are teachers. Most often it’s a direct simultaneous swap: My house for your house during an agreed-upon period, typically a few weeks. No money changes hands. I have done this twice though Homelink, to Norway and to England, and both times had a great experience. www.homelink.org