About the Institutes

2021 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 journals 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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2021 Educators of Excellence Institutes

Applications and recommendations are due Monday, February 15, 2021.

Blue Ridge Institute

  • Immerse yourself in the wilds of western North Carolina
  • Hike to waterfalls and balds
  • Snorkel a mountain stream
  • Sleep under the stars
  • Learn from scientists and experts

Participating educators will study and experience the wonders of North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Join us as we traverse the Blue Ridge Parkway from Cherry Lane to Cherokee, exploring the wonders of this incredibly biodiverse region of North Carolina. Learn from scientists and other experts about the ecology, geology, history, and culture of the Blue Ridge. Connect with nature, gain experience in outdoor leadership, and build camaraderie with other outstanding educators as we camp at multiple sites during our adventure. Discover strategies for bringing the natural history of North Carolina to life in your classroom. During the trip, participants will provide daily updates to students in North Carolina via a blog.

Dates: This Institute will be offered twice.

July 8–16, 2021. (A mandatory orientation meeting will be held either in Raleigh or virtually on March 13, 2021. A mandatory post-trip session will be held in Raleigh on November 6, 2021.)

July 29–August 6, 2021. (A mandatory orientation meeting will be held either in Raleigh or virtually on March 20, 2021. A mandatory post-trip session will be held in Raleigh on November 6, 2021.)

Locations: Multiple sites in western North Carolina and Raleigh, NC.

Group Size: Limited to 8–9 participants.

Activity Level: Moderate to rigorous including camping most nights, walking and hiking on uneven terrain, and swimming and snorkeling in mountain streams.

Cost: $400 (Includes campsites and lodging, most meals, instruction, and supporting materials.) The Museum can lend most camping gear if you do not have your own. To allow for social distancing and other safety protocols, participants will each have their own tent or room and will travel to each site in their own vehicle. At the conclusion of the Institute, the Museum will provide a $200 stipend to cover transportation costs.

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, including smaller class sizes, moving into larger rooms (if indoors), keeping participants a safe distance from each other and increasing sanitation efforts.

Please note that in-person programs are subject to change or cancellation depending on COVID-19 restrictions. A full refund would be provided in event of a cancellation.

  • Participants and instructors will travel to each site in their own vehicle. The Museum is unable to provide transportation at this time.
  • Each participant will have their own tent. Participants may bring their own tent, or the Museum can supply one. For the final two nights, lodging will be single occupancy, in yurts.
  • The Institute will be conducted almost entirely in the outdoors.
  • Face coverings are required when social distancing is not possible and during any time spent indoors.
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Requirements and Applications

Who's Eligible: Classroom educators currently teaching in North Carolina, or administrators, environmental educators, and university professors who work with these teachers.

Qualifications: 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. Applicants should have at least three years of teaching/supervising experience and expect to continue working in or with North Carolina schools during the following school year. 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 such as the NC Science Teachers Association.

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 institutional hours. Participants can also receive credit for the NC Environmental Education Certification Program (more information at www.eenorthcarolina.org).

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 2021 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, along with the $200 travel stipend, upon successful completion of the program.

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

  • 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, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Robeson, Sampson, Scotland, Tyrrell, Warren, Washington, Wayne, Wilson, Vance
  • Plan to continue working in their current school system and county during the following school year

Applications are now closed for this year.

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Staff