RALEIGH— This summer, educators from across North Carolina will experience the natural world like never before as part of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences’ Educators of Excellence Institutes. If you are a formal or informal educator in North Carolina currently teaching science and have a desire to travel and learn, now is the time to apply for one of these inspiring educational adventures, which take place this summer in Yellowstone National Park, Ecuador and Belize. Administrators, environmental educators or university professors who work with these teachers may also apply.
From June 12 to 20 (2009) Museum educators will lead one selected group through Yellowstone — America’s first national park — as they study wildlife ranging from gray wolves to grizzly bears. These teachers also will study the park’s unique geology, learn about the role of fire in natural ecosystems, and discuss conservation and environmental issues similar to those faced by North Carolina.
Another group will travel to Ecuador, South America from June 23 to July 2, during the sixth year of a special collaboration between the Museum and Heifer International. Museum staff and Ecuadorian educators will help the teachers explore connections between environmental sustainability and poverty, experience and learn about Ecuadorian ecosystems and the people who live and work in them, see successes that have helped families move from poverty toward self-reliance, and learn how to share this experience with their own students and with other schools.
The final group will travel to Belize, Central America from July 21 to 29. Along with two educators from Belize, participants will learn about surprising similarities between the ecologies of the tropics and their own region of North Carolina. During this 21st annual trip, they will study birds, butterflies and other animals unique to the tropics, and have the opportunity to explore a rain forest, Mayan ruins and a coral reef.
“These trips have the power to change educators’ lives,” says Liz Baird, director of school programs. “Not only do the Institutes inspire and reward outstanding teachers, they also have a huge impact on how teachers teach and relate to their students.” To qualify for each of these trips, educators must submit an application along with a supervisor’s recommendation. Applications are available online at www.naturalsciences.org  and must be postmarked by March 13. For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org .
The N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences’ Educators of Excellence Institutes aim to inform and empower educators to teach students about North Carolina’s ecological connections to the rest of the world. All Institutes have an online component that allows colleagues and students to follow along on the trip through pictures, journal entries and email Q&A.
Institute alumni become part of the Educators of Excellence Network, which helps teachers exchange innovative ideas for teaching science and promoting conservation awareness. More than 300 outstanding North Carolina science educators have participated in Educators of Excellence programs since 1987, while more than 30,000 North Carolina children have learned from these teachers.