Smart Summers: Going Places

January 01, 2000 20 min read

When school lets out and summer rolls in, teaching becomes a passport to adventure. A host of institutes, workshops, and seminars offer teachers thrills, chills, and VIP treatment, all under the guise of “professional development.”

Here’s our annual roundup of intriguing summer opportunities for teachers. Some feature travel to exotic spots, while others take teachers deep into America’s wilderness. Some go behind the scenes at premier museums or labs, while others partner teachers with experts in their fields. One way or another, these programs all aim to improve teaching, fight burnout, and, most of all, let teachers be students again.

Survival Of The Smartest | La Dolce Vita | Music To The Ears | Hands-On Science In San Francisco | Steinbeck Letters And The Nixon Tapes | See The World | So You Want To Be A Scholar? | Rocket Science | Figaro! | Japan Study | Field Expeditions
Holocaust Research | Adventures At Sea | Korean Fellowship | Rain Forest Studies | Science Fellowships
Survival Of The Smartest
Outward Bound Educators Courses
WHAT: Outdoor adventures customized for teachers and built on the premise that everyone learns best by doing. Outward Bound has been running challenging outdoor-education programs in the United States since 1961 and now offers teachers seven-to-10-day trips focused on experiential learning. This summer, you can trek through back-country mountains, shoot down raging rivers, or sail the Atlantic.
WHO: Small groups of classroom teachers, administrators, and other educators, led by specially trained Outward Bound staff.
WHEN: Courses are offered in June, July, and August.
WHERE: The Colorado Rockies, the Appalachian Mountains in North Carolina, Ross Lake in Washington state, or the Boundary Waters in northern Minnesota. There are two Maine-based trips: one in the Mahoosuc Mountains and another sailing off the coast.
WHY: Depending on the trip, you’ll test survival skills, learn to climb up-and rappel down-mountains, portage canoes, navigate with maps, or survive the capsizing of a river raft. Programs aim to help teachers develop experiential learning techniques for the classroom. One example: Some Colorado Outward Bound alumni have simulated an oil spill in a kiddie pool and asked their 3rd graders to figure out how best to clean it up.
INDEPENDENT STUDY: Every trip includes a “solo challenge” of a day or more where it is just you, your tent, and the elements. No cell phones or radios allowed. Some participants find this a harrowing adventure, but others report that they rest up, write in their journals, and enjoy the quiet.
BONUS POINTS: Graduate credit is available from at least two of the programs.
LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAP: The OB experience is not a walk in the park. Programs require fitness, courage, and good boots. The pack on your back will weigh as much as 65 pounds.
INSIDE SCOOP: Once an all-backpacking trip, the Rockies program this summer will mix four days of hiking and climbing with five days of rafting down the canyons and whitewater of Utah’s Green River.
CONTACT: Outward Bound USA, 100 Mystery Point Road, Garrison, NY 10524; (888) 882-6863;
COST: Fees range from $800 to $1,500, depending on the trip. Transportation to and from the starting point not included. Some programs offer financial aid.
DEADLINE: Varies depending on the program.
La Dolce Vita
Traveling Seminar on Italian Education
WHAT: “Education in Italy,” a graduate program that examines Italy’s success with the inclusion of special education students in regular classrooms. Offered through Syracuse University, the seminar features talks with education leaders, lectures, and discussions-as well as travel to some of Italy’s fabled tourist attractions and most beautiful cities.
WHO: Teachers as well as undergraduate and graduate students in education. No Italian language skills required; teachers also do not need prior experience with special education or inclusion.
WHEN: May 16-June 11.
WHERE: Starts in Rome and includes stops in Florence, Parma, and the village of Casanova before ending in Venice.
WHY: The United Nations ranks Italy among the world’s leaders in special education.
TESTIMONIALS: Past participants report that the seminar-which includes classroom observations-can be especially useful for teachers unfamiliar with inclusion strategies.
SIGHTSEEING: The program includes guided tours of many sites, including the Roman Forum, the Colosseum, Pompeii, and the Vatican.
BONUS POINTS: Syracuse gives participants six graduate credits.
LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAP: The program’s May start may interfere with your school’s schedule, so you might need to make special arrangements to attend.
CONTACT: Daisy Freid, Summer Programs Office, Syracuse University/Division of International Programs Abroad, 119 Euclid Ave., Syracuse, NY 13244-4170; (315) 443-9420.
Cost: $6,127, including tuition, housing, breakfast, and in-country transportation. Airfare and transportation to Rome not included.
DEADLINE: March 15.
Music To The Ears
Brooklyn Conservatory of Music Early Childhood Program
WHAT: Weekend workshops run by one of the oldest and most prestigious conservatories in the country. Begun last year and based on a nationally recognized program called “Songs, Sounds, Leaps and Bounds,” the sessions are designed to help those who want to run a preschool music program or improve an existing program.
WHO: Teachers, music educators, and parents.
WHEN: July 7-9 for the introductory workshop. An advanced workshop runs July 14-16.
WHERE: The conservatory is in a landmark, 117-year-old Victorian Gothic Mansion in historic Park Slope, an exquisite neighborhood full of trees and parks just across the river from Manhattan.
WHY: Learn to teach young children to sing, move to music, read basic music notation, and clap rhythmically. The program focuses on solfège (instruction in the fundamentals of music theory), teaching the basic “so-la-tee-do” alphabet of music and its hand signals as well as how to use cartoon flash cards for rhythmic “beat” and “pulse” games.
TESTIMONIAL: One music teacher who attended last year says: “I’ve been to a ton of music workshops-many of them much longer than this one-and not gotten as many goodies and big-hit activities as I got in that single weekend.”
LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAP: If you can’t read music or play an instrument, be prepared to do a lot of singing and clapping. Participation is required.
CONTACT: Brooklyn Conservatory of Music, 58 Seventh Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11217; (718) 622-3300;
COST: $285 per session.
DEADLINE: Not yet determined.
Hands-On Science In San Francisco
Exploratorium Summer Institute
WHAT: An intensive, month-long physical sciences workshop at San Francisco’s Exploratorium Museum. Renowned for its interactive exhibits that demonstrate phenomena such as sound waves, inertia, and conductivity, the museum practically invented hands-on science 30 years ago. Workshop participants spend three hours in class each day working with staff biologists, physicists, and experts on teaching science and math. Participants also build small versions of the museum’s exhibits using its machine shops.
WHO: Elementary teachers as well as science teachers at the middle and high school level.
WHEN: Dates not set yet. Usually mid-June through mid- July.
WHERE: Near San Francisco’s Marina district.
WHY: Learn to make amazing things with nothing but duct tape and spoons. “If you want to do something,” says one teacher, “they will usually figure out how to get it done.”
TESTIMONIAL: Past participants say the Exploratorium tailors its programs to teachers’ interests, whether they be Galileo’s theories or the effects of G-forces on jet pilots.
MONEY MATTERS: A $1,000 stipend helps cover transportation, food, and lodging costs.
BONUS POINTS: Three graduate credits from San Francisco State University are available for an additional fee.
INSIDE SCOOP: The 60 to 75 available slots usually draw twice as many applicants.
CONTACT: Karen Mendelow, Program Manager, Teacher Institutes, Exploratorium Museum, 3601 Lyon St., San Francisco, CA 94123; (415) 561-0313; fax (415) 561-0307; e-mail;
DEADLINE: April 15.
Steinbeck Letters And The Nixon Tapes
Working With Historical Documents at the National Archives
WHAT: The chance to gather primary-source material from the nation’s premier storehouse of history. During the National Archives’ one-week “Primarily Teaching” program, teachers research a topic of their choice, create classroom materials from historical records, and discuss how to present primary documents to students. Teachers have their pick of the complete Archives collection.
WHO: Up to 20 curriculum and professional-development coordinators, as well as upper elementary through high school teachers in history, geography, government, civics, economics, and American studies.
WHEN: June 26-30.
WHERE: The program is run out of a new Archives facility in College Park, Maryland, but participants can also do research in the downtown Washington, D.C., collection.
WHY: The Archives is not a dark and dusty repository of government documents. Its files include tape recordings, photographs, videotapes, and digitized information. Some of its treasures include Edgar Allen Poe manuscripts, the check used to buy Alaska from the Russians, the Nixon tapes, Civil War photographs, a letter from John Steinbeck to President Lyndon Johnson about the Vietnam War, and the infamous Zapruder film of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
TESTIMONIALS: “If each teacher of social studies took this course, the teaching and learning of history in this country would be utterly transformed,” says one participant. Another describes the program as “a unique opportunity to feel, albeit temporarily, like an insider at the Archives.”
WHAT YOU LEAVE WITH: One teacher gathered Depression-era photographs to accompany a poetry unit. Another collected letters, telegrams, maps, and photographs from the Battle of Little Big Horn for her history class. After his workshop, Virginia teacher James Percoco parlayed what he’d learned into his 1998 book, A Passion for the Past: Creative Teaching of U.S. History.
LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAP: Teachers come from across the nation- there have been some from as far away as Seattle-but out-of-towners have to find lodging on their own.
INSIDE SCOOP: Past participants say it’s easiest to research 20th-century topics, as they are housed at the Maryland facility where the program is run. Those studying older materials have to commute to the downtown collection.
BONUS POINTS: Graduate credit is available from the University of Virginia for an additional fee.
CONTACT: National Education Staff, National Archives and Records Administration, 700 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W., Washington, DC 20408; (301) 713-6275, ext. 250 or ext. 247;
COST: $100.
DEADLINE: Enrollment is first-come, first-served. Applications are due no later than six weeks before the workshop.
See The World
Global Volunteers
WHAT: Relief work in needy areas worldwide. Global Volunteers, a nonprofit, nonsectarian organization, sends 150 teams of volunteers to 20 sites each year for what it calls “travel to feed the soul.” Though anyone can be a volunteer, the group puts a premium on those with teaching backgrounds. Among its trip options: teaching English in Crete, science in Ghana, or computing in New Zealand’s Cook Islands.
WHO: Volunteers come from all occupations and backgrounds.
WHEN: Dates vary.
WHERE: Program sites include many faraway places-Ghana, Indonesia, Crete, China, Italy, Poland, Mexico, Romania, and Vietnam among them-but there are also some in the United States.
WHY: Teachers “play a crucial role in making our programs a success, often serving as mentors for the nonteachers,” says staffer Ann Lundquist.
TESTIMONIAL: Colleen Feller, a teacher and volunteer from last year, says, “Only through working closely with the Tanzanian people could I have experienced an understanding of their culture and developed relationships beyond saying ‘Hujambo!’ while visiting a village as a tourist.”
LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAP: The program’s full immersion in another culture may not suit you. For example, some people may balk at staying with the residents of a local homeless shelter, which is what volunteers working at Florida’s Imnokalee site do.
INSIDE SCOOP: Some programs can be shortened to fit participants’ schedules.
CONTACT: Global Volunteers, 375 E. Little Canada Road, St. Paul, MN 55117; (800) 487-1074; fax (651) 407-5163;
COST: Fees range from $1,300 to $2,400 and cover meals, supplies, lodging, and ground transportation. Transportation to and from the site is not included.
DEADLINE: Varies depending on dates of trips.
So You Want To Be A Scholar?
National Endowment for the Humanities
Summer Seminars and Institutes
WHAT: Intense study of a humanities topic, often in exotic locales in the United States and abroad. The federally funded NEH offers 27 programs that last four to six weeks and cover topics such as communism in America, the novels of Virginia Woolf, Britain’s industrial revolution, and Mexican-American relations. The small seminars study a selected humanities text and explore ways to teach it. Institutes are generally larger groups that hear lectures from visiting scholars on broader topics.
WHO: Open to full-time classroom teachers in U.S. schools or American schools abroad. Librarians and administrators may also be eligible, depending on the program.
WHEN: Various dates in June, July, and August.
WHERE: Locations all over the country, as well as in England, Puerto Rico, and France.
TESTIMONIAL: “It was an adventure that will have a tremendous impact on my own world view as well as on my teaching,” says one French teacher who went to Western Africa last year. Another participant calls his NEH program “the most challenging educational opportunity I have ever had.”
MOST EXOTIC: The month-long institute “New Perspectives on Cultural Transformations in the Spanish Caribbean” is taught at the University of Puerto Rico-in Spanish. Participants in the Virginia Woolf program travel to London.
MONEY MATTERS: Stipends to cover travel and expenses range from $2,800 to $3,700, depending on the program. New Jersey teachers are eligible for up to $1,000 in additional travel aid.
LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAP: No credit is offered. Also, the programs are not focused on helping teachers develop specific lessons.
INSIDE SCOOP: Generally, half the applicants are accepted. The NEH gives priority to teachers who have not participated in the programs in the past three years.
CONTACT: The NEH’s Division of Education Programs provides general information; call Jean Hughes at (202) 606-8463. Applications are available from the directors of the various institutes and seminars. For a list, go to
DEADLINE: March 1.
Rocket Science
NASA Educational Workshops
WHAT: Ten two-week workshops that take you behind the scenes at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to learn about aerospace technology, space science, earth science, and “the right stuff.” Chat with an astronaut. Fly flight simulators used for pilot training. Talk with the scientists who design the tiles that keep the shuttle from burning up upon reentry into the earth’s atmosphere.
WHO: Applicants must be U.S. citizens and must be certified with a minimum of three years’ teaching experience. They also must teach K-6 or specialize in mathematics, science, or technology at the K-12 grade level. Media specialists, resource teachers, curriculum specialists, and counselors with a special interest in mathematics, science, or technology may also apply.
WHEN: Various dates throughout the summer.
WHERE: Workshops are at 10 NASA facilities, including the Dryden Flight Research and Jet Propulsion centers in California, the Johnson Space Center in Texas, and the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Each has its own allure: Teachers at Kennedy may get a close-up look at the space shuttle, but Dryden is home to the newest solar-powered aircraft.
WHY: Former participant and one-time workshop leader Darlene Litteral says participants get “inside knowledge about what makes NASA tick.” They also leave laden with curriculum plans, activity guides, posters, lithographs, and other teaching tools. “This is where NASA meets Wal-Mart,” Litteral says. “We have some teachers shipping home 40 pounds of NASA materials.”
BONUS POINTS: Three units of graduate credit are available for a fee; teachers seeking credit complete a related project.
LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAP: There are hefty post-workshop requirements. NASA requires that you share what you learn with other teachers at a national, regional, or local forum. The agency also checks that you are using the materials you took home.
INSIDE SCOOP: Last year 700 educators applied; 250 were accepted. “We’re looking for people who need experience in space science, aviation, and aerospace,” says one program organizer, “not people who are already experts.”
CONTACT: Deborah Daniels, NASA Educational Workshops, National Science Teachers Association, 1840 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, VA 22201-3000; (703) 312-9391; e-mail;
COST: NASA pays for transportation, meals, housing, ground transportation, and materials.
DEADLINE: February 20.
Education at the Met’s Creating Original Opera Program
WHAT: A 18-year-old program run by the renowned Metropolitan Opera Guild to help classroom and music teachers develop and produce in-school opera with their students. Creating Original Opera includes training in auditions, writing, composing, staging, designing, and makeup. Professional artists in music, theater, and opera serve as instructors.
WHO: Any elementary or middle school teacher can participate with a music teacher from their school. Teacher teams are nominated by their school principals, and 25 schools are selected to participate from each of four regions.
WHEN: Various dates around the country.
WHERE: The program is offered at Auburn University in Alabama, the University of Cincinnati, Boston University, and Arizona State University, as well as at the Met in New York City.
WHY: In 1995, researchers from the Harvard Graduate School of Education ranked this program “among the best conceived and well-run arts education projects in the country.”
LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAP: Participants must have the support of their home school to be selected for this program.
CONTACT: Metropolitan Opera Guild, Education at the Met, 70 Lincoln Center Plaza, New York, NY 10023-6593; (212) 769-7026; fax (212) 769-8519;
COST: $190. Participants receive lodging and expenses. Transportation is not included.

DEADLINES: Each region sets its own deadline in April or May.

--Alexander Russo

Japan Study
The Fulbright Memorial Fund Teacher Program to Japan sends 600 teachers to Japan as part of a three-week study visit funded by the Japanese government. Educators from all disciplines are encouraged to apply. Though candidates do not need extensive knowledge of Japan or of the Japanese language, they must demonstrate that they can design innovative ways to include study of Japan in their curriculum. Last year, more than 2,500 teachers applied for the 600 spots.
CONTACT: Fulbright Memorial Fund Teacher Program, Institute of International Education, 1400 K St. N.W., Suite 650, Washington, DC 20005-2403; (888) 527-2636 or (202) 326-7826;
DEADLINE: January 11.

Field Expeditions
Earthwatch Institute, an international nonprofit research organization, takes elementary, middle, and high school teachers as well as librarians and administrators on two-week expeditions throughout the world. Destinations include Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Mongolia, Malaysia, Costa Rica, Belize, Baja, Bermuda, Turkey, Spain, Scotland, Hawaii, Russia, and Peru. Earthwatch projects focus on one of seven broad subjects: endangered ecosystems, oceans, biodiversity, global change, cultural diversity, world health, and origins of our future. Expeditions cost from $700 to $2,000, but Earthwatch offers full and partial funding through a competitive grant process.
CONTACT: Brian Barry, Education Awards Manager, Earthwatch, 680 Mt. Auburn St., Box 9104, Watertown, MA 02272; (800) 776-0188, ext. 118; e-mail;
DEADLINE: Grant applications should be received by March 1. Applications received after the deadline are reviewed on a rolling basis until funding runs out. Deadlines vary for those paying full cost.

Holocaust Research
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, a premier repository of information about the Nazi destruction of Jews, sponsors the Mandel Teacher Fellowship Program. Twenty-five fellows are selected for the expenses-paid, five-day program in which fellows do research in the museum’s archives and discuss advanced historical and pedagogical issues relating to the Holocaust. Secondary history, social studies, and English teachers are eligible, as well as librarians and media specialists. Candidates must have taught the Holocaust for at least five years; they must also be active in community and professional organizations.
CONTACT: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Educational Division, Mandel Teacher Fellowship Program, 100 Raoul Wallenberg Place S.W., Washington, DC 20024-2126; (202) 488-0456; fax (202) 314-7888; e-mail;
DEADLINE: February 11.

Adventures At Sea
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration partners K-12 teachers and college professors with scientists aboard 15 vessels to do hydrographic, oceanographic, and fishery research. Ships sail throughout the year to destinations that include San Diego, Honolulu, Seattle, and Fiji. The program is free, but participants pay transportation costs to the ships’ departure points.
CONTACT: Judy Sohl, Coordinator, Teacher at Sea Program, NOAA-Pacific Marine Center, 1801 Fairview Ave. E., Seattle, WA 98102-3767; (206) 553-2633; e-mail
DEADLINE: Applications must be postmarked at least three months prior to the ship’s departure. A list of each ship’s schedule is posted at

Korean Fellowship
The Korea Society announces fellowships for study in Korea. As many as 19 American educators spend June 29 to July 17 in Korea studying the country’s history, economy, language, and other topics. K-12 social studies and language arts educators are eligible as well as administrators, supervisors, mentors, and social studies specialists with at least three years of experience.
CONTACT: Yong Jin Choi, Director, Korean Studies Program, Korea Society, 950 Third Ave., 8th Floor, New York, NY 10022; (212) 759-7525, ext. 25; fax (212) 759-7530; e-mail;
DEADLINE: February 19.

Rain Forest Studies
Rain Forest Workshops for Educators, a network of teachers and other professionals dedicated to preserving the world’s rain forests, hosts studies in Belize and the Amazon. The eight-day workshops are expensive-the Belize package costs $2,498, the Amazon trip $2,250-but teachers are invited to enter a lottery for one of three $1,000 scholarships. Drawings will be held beginning in January and ending March 10.
CONTACT: Francis Gatz, Workshop Director, Rain Forest Workshops, 801 Devon Pl., Alexandria, VA 22314; (800) 669-6806;;
DEADLINE: Teachers are encouraged to register by April 1.

Science Fellowships
The Rockefeller University in New York City, a renowned biomedical research institute, offers 12 to 14 fellowships in which science teachers work as apprentices to scientists and researchers. Fellows do research in areas such as chemistry, biochemistry, immunology, neuroscience, molecular biology, or physics. Preservice teachers earn a stipend of up to $3,500, and inservice teachers make up to $5,000. After the six-to-eight-week fellowship, Rockefeller gives the teachers up to $2,000 to fund projects designed to translate their experience to the classroom. Past fellows have designed forensic experiments, created chemistry and DNA Web sites, and developed interactive bug studies.
CONTACT: Bonnie Kaiser, Director, Science Outreach Programs, Rockefeller University, 1230 York Ave., Box 53, New York, NY 10021-6399; (212) 327-7431; fax (212) 327-7519; e-mail;
DEADLINE: February 1.

--Jennifer Pricola