January 01, 1999 18 min read
Ten ways to smarten up your vacation.

Dan Napolitano is something of a professional-development connoisseur. Like a wine buff, he keeps up with what’s good from year to year, and he knows what he likes. The 38-year-old religious-studies teacher got hooked a few years ago when he won a summer fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities and wound up in England studying the Industrial Revolution. A fellowship with the Anti-Defamation League followed, and then another with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Thanks in part to these summer experiences, Napolitano, who teaches at Georgetown Prep, an all-boys private school in Bethesda, Maryland, has become a part-time scholar and has won respect and honors. He’s traveled the country, talking to educators about the guide he’s developed for teaching the Holocaust in Catholic schools and the book he’s writing about the history of anti-Semitism. And he recently spoke in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol at a ceremony to remember Holocaust victims.

Of course, not all teachers who enroll in summer institutes find it such a life-changing experience. Some programs are undoubtedly a waste of time and money. But many alumni of summer institutes, fellowships, and workshops testify to the benefits of getting outside the classroom, meeting experts, talking shop with colleagues, and adding to their knowledge base.

One of the most popular Teacher at Sea programs is a study of swordfish ... off the coast of Hawaii.

Perhaps most important, these teachers say, the experience can rekindle the fire for the classroom. Napolitano credits his summer work with rejuvenating his 15-year career. He says most teachers lose some enthusiasm as they approach a decade of teaching. “Summer institutes remind you why you love to learn.”

With that in mind, we offer a roundup of some unusual summer institutes, fellowships, workshops, and programs for teachers. These are not run-of-the-mill, dim-the-lights-and-turn-on-the-overhead programs. Some take teachers to exotic locales for intensive field work. Others shower them with VIP treatment and give them access to closed-to-the-public archives and libraries. But whether they put you standing on a boat deck knee-deep in fish guts or stuff you into Colonial-era wig and knickers, these programs all offer something different.

Far-Flung Adventures Earthwatch Expeditions

WHAT: A chance to do field research in exotic spots. Earthwatch, an international nonprofit organization, has sent more than 8,000 teachers, librarians, administrators, and students on expeditions to spots around the world. About 20 percent of its volunteers each year are educators. Teachers work with field scientists on one- to three-week projects. Expeditions in 1998 included studies of Ontario’s ancient forests, Australian dolphins, and the ancestors of Arizona’s Hopi Indians.
WHO: Open to all educators.
WHERE: Selected Earthwatch fellows work on more than 70 projects in the U.S. and approximately 50 other countries worldwide. Destinations include the Bahamas, Russia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Montana. Educators who do not get fellowships can apply to volunteer on any of Earthwatch’s more than 120 expeditions.
WHEN: Expeditions run through the spring and summer.
WHY: The expeditions can prove fertile ground for building innovative new lesson plans. More than 80 percent of teachers surveyed by Earthwatch after their expeditions reported that they teach differently as a result of the experience. An example: Anthony Cardillo had his class at Yeshiva of Los Angeles High School excavate a plot of land for artifacts of a lost culture after he worked an Earthwatch archeological dig on a sugar plantation on the West Indian island of Nevis.
MONEY MATTERS: Expeditions are pricey--they run anywhere from $800 to $2,000--and competition for the fellowships is stiff. Earthwatch received about 650 applications last year and gave 300 awards, half of them covering the full cost.
INSIDE SCOOP: New funding this year could support as many as 40 more fellowships.
BONUS: Some states give teachers professional-development credit for the expeditions.

Contact: Matt Craig, Education Awards Manager, 680 Mount Auburn St., Box 9104, Watertown, MA 02272-9104; (800) 776-0188, ext. 118;
Cost: $800-$2,000 without fellowship. Deadline: February 15. Graduate credit available at additional cost.

The Holocaust Mandel Teacher Fellowship

WHAT: A weeklong immersion in the teaching of the Holocaust, with lectures and discussions covering pedagogical and historical issues. Much of the institute runs as a workshop, with teachers swapping ideas and critiquing each other’s lesson plans. But there are also lectures by museum experts and noted scholars. During his fellowship in 1997, veteran religious-studies teacher Dan Napolitano found himself at dinner talking with Michael Burleigh, co-author of The Racial State and a heralded Holocaust scholar. “Let’s face it,” Napolitano says. “That wouldn’t have happened in my classroom.”
WHO: Up to 25 secondary school history, social studies, and English teachers as well as librarians and instructional-media specialists. A small number of teachers of other disciplines may also attend; two teachers of German participated last summer.
WHERE: At the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., fellows get a behind-the-scenes look at one of the most popular museums in the nation’s capital. Teachers can also do research in the museum’s archives and library, a premier repository of information on the Holocaust.
WHEN: August 1-6, with follow-up meetings in May 2000.
WHY: The museum hopes to build a corps of teachers to be leaders in Holocaust education in their communities.
WHY NOT: Because much of the program is designed as an exchange of ideas, fellows must have taught the Holocaust for five years. “This is not a program for beginners,” says Stephen Feinberg, fellowship coordinator.
INSIDE SCOOP: Requires some heavy lifting. After the summer meetings, participants design outreach programs for their schools, communities, or professional associations. In May 2000, the teachers return to the museum and give presentations on their projects; up to five are selected for funding of about $3,000.
MONEY MATTERS: The fellowship covers costs for travel, lodging, and meals for both the August and May meetings.

Contact: Mandel Teacher Fellowship Program, Education Division, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 100 Raoul Wallenberg Pl. S.W., Washington, DC 20024; (202) 314-7826; Deadline: February 12. Graduate credit not available.

Birth of a Nation Summer Teacher Institute in Early American History

WHAT: Six intensive, one-week interdisciplinary workshops on teaching about the era of tri-cornered hats, powdered wigs, and Patrick Henry. Based in Williamsburg, Virginia, a hotbed of Colonial history that is both kitschy and enlightening, participants explore important sites, join reenactments, work in a tobacco field, learn dances, and fire a cannon. When classes retreat to the air-conditioned indoors, teachers attend lectures with noted historians and work with primary sources that include journal entries of 18th-century residents of the town.
WHO: Elementary teachers and middle and high school teachers of social studies, U.S. history, or government. Admission is first-come, first-served; there are 24 spots available per workshop.
WHERE: Based in Colonial Williamsburg, but with excursions to nearby Jamestown, the Yorktown battlefield, a reconstructed Powhatan Indian village, and the Colonial plantation of Carter’s Grove.
WHEN: Workshops run during June and July. Three workshops are offered for elementary teachers, two for middle school teachers, and one for high school teachers.
WHY: The program is designed to immerse teachers in Colonial life so they can do the same for their students.
WHY NOT: “Participants,” warns the program’s brochure, “must have the physical and mental endurance required for 13- to 14-hour days in a hot, humid climate.”
WHERE YOU’LL LAY YOUR HEAD: Attendees are housed in a period home or tavern on Duke of Gloucester Street, Williamsburg’s famous main drag.
PARTING GIFTS: Workshop attendees leave Williamsburg with replica artifacts such as quill pens and wax seals.

Contact: Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, School and Group Services, P.O. Box 1776, Williamsburg, VA 23187; (757) 220-7582. Cost: $1,475, all-inclusive. Deadline: March 31. Graduate credit available at additional cost.

Anchors Aweigh Teacher at Sea Program

WHAT: A wet and wild adventure on a government research vessel. Since 1992, the program has taken some 300 teachers to sea aboard boats conducting scientific field work for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Teachers work under the direction of scientists; research projects include cataloging fish populations, mapping changes in inland waterways, and studying chemical and physical changes in the ocean waters. Voyages last as long as a month, but the average is 10 to 14 days. Afterward, teachers submit to NOAA a mini-unit of lessons based on the experience and write an article or give a presentation to other educators about the work.
WHO: As many as 45 teachers from all grade levels. No previous science background is required. Teachers who can best show how they’ll use the experience at sea to improve their instruction are accepted.
WHERE: U.S. waters off the East and West coasts, near Hawaii and Alaska, and in the Gulf of Mexico.
WHEN: Ships sail throughout the spring and summer.
WHY: Lisa Reid, a science teacher from May, Texas, says her Alaskan voyage helped stir excitement among her kids for doing field research themselves: “These kids don’t even get out of the county. You say Alaska, and they think ‘ice.’ ”
GET IN LINE: One of the most sought-after trips is a study of swordfish populations in the waters off . . . Hawaii.
WHERE YOU’LL LAY YOUR HEAD: “This is not the Love Boat,” says program coordinator Judy Sohl. “They call the quarters ‘staterooms,’ but they’re not exactly stately.” Teachers, scientists, and crew generally sleep two to a room in bunk beds; the ceilings are so low that the occupant in the top bunk often can’t sit up.
INSIDE SCOOP: Most teachers worry they’ll get seasick, but few actually do. Reid can’t swim and worried aloud that she might drown, but her crew laughed. “You’d freeze before you’d drown,” they said.
APPLICATION TIP: Applicants often propose complex research and lesson plans for their trips, but Sohl would love for someone to tackle something simpler: How do you feed 60 people at sea for a month? Food on board NOAA vessels is remarkably good--so good that teachers complain about putting on weight--yet it’s something of a mystery how the ship’s cooks manage such a feat.

Contact: Judy Sohl, Teacher at Sea Program, 1801 Fairview Ave. E., Seattle, WA 98102; (206) 553-2633; applications available at
Cost: Teachers pay for transportation to ship’s departure point. Deadline: March 6. Graduate credit available at additional cost.

Wired In D.C. C-SPAN Teacher Fellowships

WHAT: A paid, four-week stint at C-SPAN’s Washington, D.C., headquarters creating educational materials for the cable network. C-SPAN is television’s mouse that roared; though it’s available in a relatively small number of homes--73 million--it offers gavel-to-gavel coverage of the House and Senate, programming that is must-see TV these days. Fellows work with C-SPAN staff to develop high school print, video, and online materials and lesson plans.
WHO: High school teachers who are members of C-SPAN in the Classroom, a free service that gives educators unrestricted taping rights to the network’s broadcasts and advance notice of selected programming.
WHERE: C-SPAN’s offices are close to Capitol Hill.
WHY NOT: Candidates are nominated by local cable systems. They must demonstrate in the rather rigorous application process--essays and interviews--that they use C-SPAN programming extensively in the classroom. “They can’t just show a program and then discuss it,” says spokeswoman Erika Robinson.
CELEBRITY WATCHING: For political junkies, cruising the halls of Congress, attending hearings, and hobnobbing with politicos in Capitol Hill eateries is a dream come true. Past fellows talk dreamily of chance meetings they had with long-admired lawmakers.
MONEY MATTERS: C-SPAN puts the value of the fellowship at $6,500. That includes a $3,000 stipend, $2,000 for housing and other expenses, round-trip airfare to Washington, and $500 worth of coupons for tapes of C-SPAN programming from the network’s archives.
THE ODDS: Once you’re nominated by your cable system, chances are good you’ll get a fellowship. Last year, only 10 teachers were nominated.

Contact: C-SPAN High School Teacher Fellowship Program, C-SPAN, c /o Education Relations, Suite 650, 400 N. Capitol St. N.W., Washington, DC 20001; (800) 523-7586; Deadline: February 26. Graduate credit not available.

The Nation’s Attic The Smithsonian Institution’s Summer Institutes for Teachers

WHAT: Seven inexpensive seminars based at the world’s largest consortium of museums. Topics range from zoology (“Wildlife Diversity and Adaptations: A Hands-on Approach”) to writing (“Using Museums To Inspire Student Writers”). The courses draw heavily on exhibits and the Smithsonian’s wealth of resources; all are designed to help teachers use museums for projects and classwork.
WHO: Teachers of all grades and disciplines. Preference is given to those applying for credit.
WHERE: Smithsonian Institution locations throughout the Washington, D.C., area.
WHEN: The 4- and 5-day programs run in June and July.
WHY: What better place could there be to learn about museums as teaching tools? Known as “the nation’s attic,” the Smithsonian encompasses the National Zoo and 16 museums, among them the National Air and Space Museum and the Museum of American History.
BELIEVE US WHEN WE TELL YOU: Summer blankets Washington with jungle-like humidity.

Contact: Smithsonian Summer Seminars for Teachers, Smithsonian Office of Education, Smithsonian Institution, A&I 1163/MRC 402, Washington, DC 20560; (202) 357-3050.
Cost: $50 per course. In-service credit available free for Washington, D.C., and Maryland teachers. Recertification credit available for Virginia teachers. Deadline: None, but the program prefers to receive applications by the end of May.

Everyday Science Summer Institutes of the Museum Institute for Teaching Science

WHAT: Seminars held by museums throughout Massachusetts. The programs are tailored to a theme chosen by the institute, which was founded in 1983 with the mission of improving elementary science education through museum-based programs. This year’s theme is “The Everyday Scientist,” and the workshops explore how to teach basic science using ordinary materials and everyday events. Lesson plans are based on museum materials, but they can be replicated in the classroom.
WHO: Elementary-level science teachers.
WHERE: The list of museums includes wildlife sanctuaries, armories, and botanical gardens. The Boston Children’s Museum, the Williams College Art Museum, the Springfield Science Museum, and the New England Quilt Museum have participated in the past.
WHEN: July 6-16.
WHY: This program aims to be a hands-on, roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-dirty immersion into basic science.
SEE YOU IN SEPTEMBER: Participants return for two days of additional training during the school year.
PARTY FAVORS: Participants take home $50 worth of books and materials.

Contact:MITS Inc., 79 Milk St., Suite 210, Boston, MA 02109-3903; (617) 695-9771; email:
Cost:$30 registration fee, but the program itself is free. There’s no deadline for applications, but most arrive in late February. Graduate credit available at additional cost.

Country Learning Bread Loaf School of English

WHAT: A graduate program based in bucolic spots across the country and in England. The school offers six-week summer seminars in literature, literary theory, creative writing, the teaching of writing, and theater. More than 400 students attend each summer.
WHO: Open to anyone with a bachelor of arts degree and to exceptional undergraduates, but most applicants are secondary school teachers.
WHERE: The program operates at four campuses. Middlebury College is the hub, with classes held in a 19th-century inn tucked at the foot of Vermont’s Green Mountains. About 90 students travel to England and study at Lincoln College, the smallest of the colleges of Oxford University. A third site is the Native American Preparatory School in Rowe, New Mexico, near Sante Fe. This summer, a new Bread Loaf campus will open at the University of Alaska Southeast, on Auke Lake just outside Juneau.
WHEN: Programs begin at various times in June.
WHY: Each of the programs has unique attractions. The Middlebury campus owns and maintains the Robert Frost Farm, a national historical site dedicated to the late poet, a former Middlebury faculty member. At Oxford, students have access to the university’s Bodleian Library, one of the finest in the world. In Rowe, the coursework emphasizes Native American literature, American Hispanic literature, and writing of the Southwest. Likewise, the Juneau campus focuses on indigenous cultures and the literature and landscape of the Pacific Northwest.
WHY NOT: Teachers pursuing a master of arts or master of letters degree must complete 10 courses, which generally takes four or five summers. Those wishing to attend for only one summer may enroll in the nondegree program and receive a continuing-education certificate.
MONEY MATTERS: Need-based financial aid available, as well as fellowships for teachers from rural areas.
TEACHING THE TEACHERS: Each campus brings professors from all over the country to teach the courses. The Juneau program, for example, will feature faculty this summer from Princeton, Georgetown, and Harvard, among others.
INSIDE SCOOP: Robert Baroz, an English teacher at Champlain Valley Union High School in Vermont, spent one of his summers at Oxford and raves about the guest-lecture meals with “all the wine and cheese you could want,” plus Shakespearean plays “to your heart’s delight.”

Contact: Bread Loaf School of English, Middlebury College, Middlebury, VT 05753; (802) 443-5418; Cost: Vermont, $4,420; Oxford, $5,200; Rowe, $4,770; Juneau, $4,760. Fees cover tuition, room, and board. Rolling admission begins in February and closes May 15. Early application is encouraged.

The Human Element National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminars And Institutes for School Teachers

WHAT: Twenty-nine three- to six-week seminars and institutes on humanities topics run by the NEH, the federal grant-making agency whose mission is “to make the humanities accessible to all Americans.” Its programs, which are mostly organized by colleges and universities, are taught by professors with bona fides in their fields. Topics include: “Beowulf and the Historic Age,” “The Journals of the Enlisted Men on the Lewis and Clark Expedition,” and “Islam in West Africa.”
WHO: Administrators, librarians, and teachers from any discipline. A mix of new teachers and veterans is sought in each program. Those who have not previously participated in an NEH summer program are given preference.
WHERE: Most seminars are based on university campuses in the United States, but a handful take place in glamorous and exotic spots, including France, Italy, and Senegal.
WHEN: Programs run from late June through mid-August.
WHY: These are not broad survey courses but intensive studies of fairly narrow topics. Example: the Lehigh University five-week seminar, “Viennese Perspectives on European Culture, Ideas, and the Arts, 1890-1940.”
INSIDE SCOOP: Competition for slots varies. “The Gothic Cathedral as Mirror of Medieval Culture” enrolls 15, but because it’s taught in Paris by well-known scholar Robert Calkins, hundreds will apply. The average program enrolls 25 applicants and gets about 75 applications.
MONEY MATTERS: Participants get a stipend ranging from $2,350 to $3,700.
LEST WE FORGET: Thanks to a state-specific grant from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, teachers from New Jersey get a travel allowance of up to $1,000.

Contact: National Endowment for the Humanities, Seminars and Institutes Program, 1100 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W., Washington, DC 20506; (202) 606-8463; e-mail Deadline: March 1. Graduate credit not available.

Talk To The Animals The Bronx Zoo Summer Workshops

WHAT: Five-day, grade-specific workshops covering the use of Bronx Zoo-developed science curricula. “Pablo Python Looks at Animals,” for example, is designed to expand the observation skills of kids in grades K-3. The other three programs are intended for use with middle schoolers and offer activities, lesson plans, and teachers’ guides covering topics in energy, ecology, and wildlife.
WHO: Open to administrators and K-9 teachers in any discipline. Teacher applicants must have written support of their administrators.
WHERE: The Bronx Zoo in New York City.
WHEN: The four workshops run in late June and July.
WHY: The programs are designed to help teachers use the Zoo’s off-the-shelf curricula, which can be integrated with language arts, social studies, and other subjects.
WHY NOT: Participants must obtain a promise from administrators that their school will implement the curriculum; later, they must submit proof of its use. Also, participants must conduct a peer-training workshop.
APPLICATION TIP: About two out of every three applicants are accepted. Program gives preference to teachers who apply in groups of two or three from the same school.
MONEY MATTERS: The program reimburses up to $110 of air travel costs.

Contact: Ann Robinson, Manager of National Programs, Wildlife Conservation Society, 185th St. and Southern Blvd., Bronx, NY 10460-1099; (800) 737-5131. Cost: $295. No application deadline, but program staff ask that you “apply as soon as possible.” Graduate credit available at additional cost.

PHOTO: Ecostudy: Earthwatch teacher takes a sample in an Ontario forest
Patriot Games: Reliving Colonial days
--Colonial Williamsburg Foundation
Onboard: A floating teachers’ lounge it’s not
--Brenda Pattison
Angle of repose: Bread Loaf’s respite
--Bread Loaf