About the Institutes

2023 Educators of Excellence Institutes | Requirements and Applications

The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences created the Educators of Excellence Institutes to enable exemplary educators to:

  • Experience the natural world in selected outstanding environments.
  • Increase the use of reflection and direct environmental experience in teaching.
  • Become inspired and recommitted to the teaching profession.
  • Become a part of a statewide network of exceptional educators for continued support and learning.
This program changed my life and teaching direction.

3rd grade teacher, McDowell County

I wish all educators could experience this Institute – it would make all our schools a better place to teach and learn.

8th grade teacher, Burke County

Read daily blogs from the Museum’s Institutes.

Since 1987, educators from across North Carolina have been inspired by their experiences in outstanding natural areas such as Belize, Ecuador and Yellowstone National Park. The Institutes are available at low cost because of the support from the Friends of the Museum's Educators of Excellence Fund.

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Applications and recommendations are due Monday, February 13, 2023. Currently, applications are open for the following:

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2023 Educators of Excellence Institutes

Tropical Ecology Institute

We are currently accepting applications for a limited number of spaces for the Tropical Ecology Institute in July 2023. Newly accepted applicants will join participants selected in 2020 who have not yet had the opportunity to travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Explore a tropical rain forest.
  • Visit Maya ruins.
  • Experience limestone caves.
  • Snorkel on the reef.

Participants will experience several tropical habitats, including coral reefs, mangrove swamps and rain forests. Explore an amazing diversity of neotropical bird and insect species with morning bird walks and evening insect explorations. Learn about Maya culture and watch a master chocolatier turn cacao into chocolate. Experience the calls of Red-eyed Treefrogs on an evening visit to their wetland home. Discover the colorful variety of tropical fishes while snorkeling Belize’s world-renowned reef. Build connections with Belizean educators as you get to know local teacher participants. The daily program will include practical field experiences, basic biological information and easily duplicated techniques for teaching natural sciences. Students can follow along and ask questions as we post daily blogs from the field.

Dates: July 17-25, 2023. (Mandatory pre- and post-trip sessions will be held in Raleigh on April 29 and November 4, 2023.)

Locations: Belize, Central America and Raleigh, NC.

Participants: Limited to 12. (Note: Belizean teachers will join with American educators to form an international team that shares teaching techniques.)

Activity Level: Moderate to rigorous including walking/hiking in tropical (high heat/humidity) settings; swimming and snorkeling.

Cost: $1500 (includes supplies, round-trip airfare from Raleigh to Belize, instruction, lodging and meals). Participants will be responsible for travel to and from Raleigh and expenses in Raleigh during pre- and post-trip sessions. Many participants receive funding from their local civic or professional organizations.

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Yellowstone Institute

Participants for the Yellowstone Institute in June 2023 have already been selected. Follow our adventure from June 15-23 via the Yellowstone trip blog.

  • Experience one of North America’s greatest concentrations of wildlife.
  • Observe world-class geological wonders.
  • Learn about the history and management of America’s first national park.
  • Learn from scientists and experts.

Participating educators will study and experience the wonders of the world’s first national park. Join us from sunrise to sunset as we observe the incredible wildlife of Yellowstone, including bears, bison, wolves and elk. Learn about the area’s unique geology while exploring the amazing world of geysers, hot springs and mudpots. Enjoy the magnificent scenery of the northern Rocky Mountains as we hike trails throughout the park. The daily program will include field experiences, opportunities to meet with park staff and other experts, and activities designed to help integrate your experiences into the classroom. Discover strategies for exploring the connections between Yellowstone and North Carolina — wolf and elk reintroduction, fire ecology, resource management issues and much more. Students can follow along and ask questions as we post daily blogs from the field.

Dates: June 15-23, 2023 (Mandatory post-trip session will be held in Raleigh on November 4, 2023.)

Locations: Yellowstone National Park, Montana and Wyoming, and Raleigh, NC.

Group Size: Limited to 12 participants.

Activity Level: Moderate to rigorous including walking and hiking on uneven terrain at high altitudes.

Cost: $1000. (Includes supplies; round-trip airfare from Raleigh to Bozeman, MT; all ground transportation; instruction and lodging.) Participants will be responsible for travel to and from Raleigh, expenses in Raleigh during pre- and post-trip sessions, and most meals in Yellowstone. Many participants receive funding from their local civic or professional organizations.

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Yellowstone In Winter Institute

Participants for the Yellowstone in Winter Institute in January 2023 have already been selected. Follow our adventure from January 11-17 via the Yellowstone in Winter trip blog.

  • Observe winter wildlife at dusk and dawn.
  • Experience steam and ice in geothermal basins.
  • Snowshoe beneath snow-capped mountains.
  • Travel into the Park’s interior aboard a snowcoach.

Participating educators will experience the magic of Yellowstone National Park in its harshest and quietest season. Learn about the adaptations of Yellowstone’s wildlife to survive the bottleneck of winter. Experience the Park’s unique geothermal features as cold air turns steam to rime ice. Take in the white-cloaked mountains while snowshoeing through snowy meadows. Notice the many creatures that roam the Park as they leave tracks in the snow. The daily program will include morning and evening wildlife watching, interactions with scientists and local experts, and an overnight snowcoach journey to Old Faithful. Discover strategies for teaching about winter weather, wildlife, geology, and the conservation of wild places. Students can follow along and ask questions as we post daily blogs from the field. Return to the classroom refreshed and full of new ideas for bringing natural science to life.

Dates: January 11–17, 2023. (Mandatory pre- and post-trip sessions will be held in Raleigh on December 3, 2022 and November 4, 2023.)

Locations: Yellowstone National Park, Montana and Wyoming, and Raleigh, NC.

Group Size: Limited to 10 participants.

Activity Level: Moderate to rigorous including walking and hiking on uneven terrain at high altitudes in cold conditions.

Cost: $1000. (Includes supplies; round-trip airfare from Raleigh to Bozeman, MT; all ground transportation; snowcoach tour to Old Faithful; instruction; most meals; and lodging.) Participants will be responsible for travel to and from Raleigh, expenses in Raleigh during pre- and post-trip sessions, and some meals in Yellowstone. Many participants receive funding from their local civic or professional organizations.

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Requirements and Applications

Who's Eligible: Classroom teachers of all subject areas, school administrators, informal educators and university professors who work with teachers.

Qualifications: All applicants must currently be working as full-time educators in North Carolina and must expect to continue working in or with North Carolina schools during the following school year. Applicants must have at least three years of teaching/supervising experience. Applicants should demonstrate an interest in the natural sciences and be willing to use and support innovative teaching methods in the classroom and on field trips. All participants should be prepared for moderately strenuous activity.

Requirements: After the trip, participants must develop an educational project incorporating their experience from the Institute. Projects will be presented at the post-trip meeting in November. Participants are encouraged to share their projects at meetings or conferences of professional organizations.

Selection: The Museum strives to achieve statewide representation from diverse backgrounds and a range of grade levels. Preference is given to educators who show evidence of institutional support, flexibility and a tendency to be active group participants.

Credit: Institutes may be approved for renewal credits by local school districts. Participants receive a certificate of course completion for the number of instructional hours. Participants can also receive credit for the NC Environmental Education Certification Program (more information at www.eenorthcarolina.org).

Health and Safety Precautions

All in-person programs will follow current state and federal health guidelines and apply a range of safety measures to mitigate health risks.

Financial Support

Many participants receive financial support from their schools and/or local civic or professional organizations. Contact your local district office for information on grants and scholarships.

Scholarship Opportunities:

The Simple Gifts Scholarship is provided through the generous support of the Simple Gifts Fund, which strives to enrich and improve the lives of motivated, rural Eastern NC teachers and their students. The Simple Gifts Fund seeks to provide scholarships to teachers who recognize the value of inquiry, who understand the power of knowledge and who appreciate the importance of inspiring excellence in their students. Applicants who are chosen to participate in the one of the 2023 Educators of Excellence Institutes, and meet the following criteria, will be eligible for a full scholarship covering the cost of the experience. Once selected, applicants will be responsible for paying a $200 deposit that will be returned to them upon successful completion of the program.

To be considered for the Simple Gifts Scholarship, applicants must:

  • Have not previously received the Simple Gifts Scholarship;
  • Be a teacher, guidance counselor, media coordinator or assistant principal in a public school, in one of the following counties:
    Beaufort, Bertie, Bladen, Chowan, Columbus, Cumberland, Duplin, Edgecombe, Gates, Greene, Halifax, Hertford, Hoke, Hyde, Jones, Lenoir, Martin, Nash, Northhampton, Onslow, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Pitt, Robeson, Sampson, Scotland, Tyrrell, Vance, Warren, Washington, Wayne, Wilson
  • Plan to continue working in their current school system and county during the following school year.

The Clyde Wayne Quick Memorial Scholarship provides $500 in financial support for one participant in the Yellowstone or Yellowstone in Winter Institute each year. Donated by his loving wife, who attended the Yellowstone Institute in 2007, this scholarship honors Clyde’s love of nature and concern for preservation of our public lands. Priority is given to public high school and middle school science teachers with demonstrated need, but any public school teacher is eligible for the scholarship. To be considered for this scholarship, please submit a written request to Melissa Dowland along with your program application.

Applications and recommendations are due Monday, February 13, 2023.

Educator Application
Supervisor Recommendation

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Staff