PolarTREC teacher Nikki Airaudi at Summit, Greenland
PolarTREC teacher Nikki Airaudi at Summit, Greenland
PolarTREC (Teachers and Researchers Exploring and Collaborating) is a program in which teachers from the United States (both formal and informal) spend 3-6 weeks participating in hands-on field research experiences in the polar regions. The goal of PolarTREC is to invigorate polar science education and understanding by bringing educators and polar researchers together. We currently accept applications from U.S. teachers teaching middle and high school students only and informal educators who have a primary focus on outreach to middle and high school students and/or professional development for their teachers.

Program Development

PolarTREC was developed based on the strengths of the past PolarTREC (2007-2018) and TREC programs, as well as other teacher research experience (TRE's) programs.

PolarTREC has been around for over 10 years providing over 170 U.S. teachers a unique opportunity to work with scientists in the polar regions. It is a multi-year project with four major categories of interrelated activities making up the PolarTREC Teacher Research Experience Model.

The main components of PolarTREC Include:

  • provide hands-on field research experiences that are implemented in the polar regions,
  • broadly disseminate teacher/educator experiences to students, professionals, and the public,
  • develop a sustainable learning community, and
  • provide clear and appropriate measures of project success.

PolarTREC teacher Michelle Brown and students try on Extreme Cold Weather
PolarTREC teacher Michelle Brown and students try on Extreme Cold Weather gear

Polar Field Research Experience: The core of the PolarTREC program is the field research experience, whereby PolarTREC teachers participate in field research in the Arctic or Antarctic for three to six weeks. Selected research projects represent the leading edge of scientific inquiry and include the teacher as an integral part of the science team.

Classroom and Public Connections: While in the field, teachers and researchers connect with classrooms and the public through use of Internet tools such as online teacher and researcher journals, message boards, photo albums, podcasts, "PolarConnect" calls and presentations from the field, and online learning resources. After the field experience, teachers and researchers continue to share their experience with the public through public presentations, scientific conferences, teacher workshops, and journal articles. Each PolarTREC teacher also creates instructional activities to transfer scientific data, methodologies, and technology into their classrooms.

Professional Development: PolarTREC provides professional development opportunities for teachers who participate in field research projects. PolarTREC provides a variety of content, tools, and web seminars geared towards subject matter learning, teaching practices, and alignment of PolarTREC experiences with current professional teaching standards. At the end of the project period, PolarTREC products and results are shared to the public.

Sustained Community and Support: The PolarTREC program is designed to extend the experience beyond field research to support a sustained community of teachers, scientists, students, and the public through online seminars, an e-mail listserve, and teacher-to-teacher peer groups. New PolarTREC teachers will have the opportunity to work closely with an experienced Partner Teacher (teachers that have participated in a teacher research experience) on aspects of their research experience and educational plans.


What does a successful PolarTREC experience look like for a researcher? Our litmus test of success is if a researcher returns to PolarTREC to host another teacher. Success also may involve a lot of outreach about the expedition, new lesson plans created by the teacher about your science, or a lot of participants attending a PolarConnect event. Below is a graphic showing what success looked liked for the 2016-2017 season.

2016-2017 Infographic about PolarTREC
2016-2017 Infographic about PolarTREC

Funding and Support

PolarTREC teacher John Wood at the Arctic Circle, Alaska
PolarTREC teacher John Wood at the Arctic Circle, Alaska
The PolarTREC program is managed by the Arctic Research Consortium of the United States (ARCUS), a non profit based in Alaska with an office in Washington D.C. ARCUS is a consortium of educational and scientific members that have a substantial commitment to arctic research. Over the years, ARCUS has received funding from National Science Foundation Office of Polar Programs for PolarTREC. Funding for 2019-2020 is pending from NSF Office of Polar Programs.

In addition, ARCUS works with other organizations, NASA and NOAA, to host a few additional teachers through the PolarTREC program.

Through a contract with the National Science Foundation, PolarTREC works closely with Polar Field Services and Antarctica Support Contract (ASC) to provide logistical support to PolarTREC teachers embarking on field expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic. Polar Field Services is the National Science Foundation's (NSF) arctic logistics contractor and supports NSF-funded researchers and personnel working across the Arctic by coordinating travel, logistics and equipment needs. Antarctica Support Contract provides all logistical support to the United States Antarctic Program by arranging travel, medical clearance and providing cold weather clothing and equipment to all US participants.


For more information please contact PolarTREC Support Staff at info [at] polartrec.com

3535 College Road, Suite 101
Fairbanks, AK 99709