In 2007 I went to the Galapagos for two weeks, courtesy of the Toyota Motor Sales Corporation. We saw wildlife, traveled between the islands, met local teachers, and visited Galapagos schools. The experience 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 northern 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 prehistoric archaeology to contemplate tackling the origins of Marin County’s puzzling stone line.
Also in 2009 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.
Some of the teachers I went with to the Galapagos do this sort of thing all the time, and now I’ve become one of them. There are a lot of similar 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.
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. http://education.nationalgeographic.com/education/program/grosvenor-teacher-fellow
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://quest.nasa.gov/projects/spacewardbound
The Antarctic Geological Drilling Program ANDRILL has sent teachers to Antarctica. 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 http://www.forestryinstitute.org/. You basically go hiking around in the forest – and learn to appreciate trees in ways you’d never think!
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. 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 San Francisco Bay Area teachers and students on all-expenses-paid trips (Paraguay, most recently.) http://www.amigoslink.org/yap
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 Teachers for Global Classrooms Program sends teachers to places such as Brazil, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Morocco and Ukraine for 2 – 3 weeks. http://www.irex.org/project/teachers-global-classrooms-program-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://www.toshiba.com/csr/education_tomodachi_stem.jsp
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/teacher-seminars/
The British Universities Summer School offers three- or six-week fellowships in the UK http://www.esuus.org/esu/programs/british_summer_school/
The Hilton HHonors Teacher Treks Travel Grant Competition sends 15 teachers each year on trips they design for themselves. https://hiltonhhonors.promo.eprize.com/teachertreks
The Fulbright Teacher Exchange Program http://www.fulbrightteacherexchange.org is more than just a study tour – you actually trade places with a foreign teacher for a year, a semester or six weeks. However, they also offer Classics summer seminars in Italy and Greece and non-simultaneous administrator exchanges. http://www.americancouncils.org/educationalSeminars.php
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. http://www.gilderlehrman.org/programs-exhibitions/teacher-seminars
The Fund for Teachers gives grants for self-designed summer sabbaticals, but not all school districts are eligible. Mine is not. http://www.fundforteachers.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. http://www.trianglecoalition.org/einstein-fellows
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