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About the Program

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.

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.

Applications for our new Mexico’s Magical Migrations Institute in January 2025 are now open. The application deadline is October 11, 2024.

Applications for Summer 2025 Institutes will open in November 2024. Sign up for our email list to make sure you’re notified about future Institutes!


2025 Institutes

MEXICO’S MAGICAL MIGRATIONS INSTITUTE

  • Experience one of the world’s greatest migrations: monarch butterflies on their wintering grounds.
  • Observe humpback whale social interactions.
  • Visit pre-Aztec ruins at Teotihuacán.
  • Discover connections between Mexico and North Carolina.

Participating educators will witness two of nature’s greatest spectacles – wintering monarch butterflies and humpback whales. Each year one of the world’s greatest migrations takes place as millions of monarch butterflies from the US and Canada travel south to the forested Mexican highlands. Once they arrive, they begin a period of winter hibernation by clustering together in huge numbers, blanketing the surrounding vegetation. As the butterflies are arriving in Mexico, so are humpback whales. Concluding their own incredible migration from their feeding waters off Alaska, large numbers of humpback whales gather off Mexico’s Pacific coast. They come to these warmer waters to breed and to give birth. Learn about these magical migrations from local experts and explore connections to North Carolina. We will share our adventures with students at home through daily blog posts from the field.

Dates: January 15-22, 2025. (Mandatory pre- and post-trip sessions will be held in Raleigh on December 7, 2024 and November 1, 2025.)

Locations: Mexico City, Agua Blanca, and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and Raleigh, N.C.

Group Size: Limited to 12 participants.

Activity Level: Moderate to rigorous including hiking (up to 2 miles) on uneven terrain, walking at high altitudes (~10,000 ft), and riding horses on trails with a guide.

Cost: $1800 (Includes round-trip airfare from Raleigh to Mexico, in-country transportation, instruction, lodging, and meals.) Participants will be responsible for travel to and from Raleigh and expenses in Raleigh during pre- and post-trip sessions. See below for scholarship opportunities.

 

YELLOWSTONE INSTITUTE

Applications for the 2025 Yellowstone Institute will open in November 2024.

  • 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 our 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 18-26, 2025 (Mandatory pre- and post-trip sessions will be held in Raleigh in March/April and November 1, 2025.)

Locations: Yellowstone National Park, Montana and Wyoming and Raleigh, N.C.

Group Size: Limited to 12 participants.

Activity Level: Moderate to rigorous including walking and hiking (up to 5 miles) on uneven terrain at high altitudes.

Cost: $1100 (Includes 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. See below for scholarship opportunities.

 

SOUTH AFRICA INSTITUTE

Applications for the 2025 South Africa Institute will open in November 2024.

  • Search for the “Big 5” species of wildlife: lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, and buffalo.
  • Take a bush walk with a safari ranger.
  • Explore the majestic Drakensburg mountains.
  • Cruise for hippos and crocs in coastal wetlands.

Experience the best wild lands that South Africa has to offer, from game reserves and grasslands to mountains and wetlands to beaches and estuaries. Enjoy the thrill of coming face to face with a herd of African elephants from an open safari vehicle, walk with safari rangers in the bush of Kruger National Park, hike through the stunning Tegula Gorge in the Drakensberg mountains, take a river cruise in the company of the hippos and crocodiles, and learn from local guides about the diverse flora and fauna of South Africa. Build connections with South African educators as you get to know local teacher participants. The daily program will include activities, field experiences and basic natural history. During the trip, participants will provide daily updates to students in North Carolina via a blog.

Dates: 14 days, TBD in late July through early August 2025. (Mandatory pre- and post-trip sessions will be held in Raleigh in March/April and November 1, 2025.)

Locations: Kruger National Park, Wakkerstroom Wetlands, Royal Natal National Park, Gwahumbe Game Reserve, and iSimangaliso Wetland Park, South Africa and Raleigh, N.C.

Group Size: Limited to 12 participants. (Note: South African teachers will join with American educators to form an international team.)

Activity Level: Moderate to rigorous including walking and hiking (up to 7 miles) on uneven terrain.

Cost: $2100 (Includes round-trip airfare from Raleigh to South Africa, in-country transportation, instruction, lodging, and some meals.) Participants will be responsible for travel to and from Raleigh, expenses in Raleigh during pre- and post-trip sessions, and some meals in South Africa. See below for scholarship opportunities.


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: The cost of all Educators of Excellence Institutes is reduced thanks to generous support from the Goodnight Educational Foundation through the Educators of Excellence Fund. Participant fees reflect about one third of the total cost of the Institute.

Educators from public schools in many eastern NC counties are eligible for additional support through the Simple Gifts Scholarship, which is generously supported by the Anonymous Trust. Details about the Simple Gifts Scholarship will be available in July 2024; please check back and apply in July or later if you are interested in this opportunity.

We do not want cost to be a barrier for any educator. If the cost of the Institute would prevent your participation, and you do not qualify for the Simple Gifts Scholarship, please reach out to Melissa Dowland. Additionally, 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.

Application Forms: 
Educator Application
Supervisor Recommendation

Applications and recommendations are due by the end of the day on Friday, October 11, 2024. All applications received by the deadline will be considered equally.