Frequently Asked Questions for Teachers

Program Information

Question:
Is PolarTREC a professional development program?
Answer:

Yes, the primary goal of PolarTREC is to provide a professional development experience to educators (both informal science educators and formal classroom teachers). PolarTREC is designed so that all participates participate in real polar research activities in order to improve their science content knowledge and understanding of scientific inquiry. To do this, participating educators are not merely observers, but active members of the team being trained and getting involved in research activities wherever possible.

For 2019-2020, we are accepting applications from both U.S. informal science educators as well as formal U.S. classroom teachers (teaching in grades 6-12). Informal educators should have the primary focus on outreach to middle and high school students and/or professional development for their teachers. Applications will be to participate in field research learning experiences during the 2019 (usually Arctic) or 2019-20 (usually Antarctic) field seasons.

PolarTREC alumni also become members of our larger network of teachers and researchers and meet online to continue collaborations, exchange ideas, and discuss the long-term effects and outcomes of their PolarTREC experiences.

Question:
How long has the program been in existence?
Answer:

PolarTREC started during the International Polar Year in 2007 and was funded through 2009. However, it was based on a preceding program called TREC that matched teachers with researchers for research experiences in the Arctic from 2004-2006. PolarTREC has since been funded in various iterations through 2018. Funding beyond 2018 is pending.

Question:
What kind of research is conducted during the expeditions?
Answer:

The type of research varies each year, but it encompasses many different scientific disciplines including archaeology, geology, ecology, atmospheric science, and much more.

Question:
Is it possible to receive college credit or continuing education credit for the experience?
Answer:

Yes. PolarTREC can work with selected teachers and informal science educators who complete program requirements to provide college credit, letters of support, certificates of professional development hours, or other forms of recognition or documentation needed to advance their career goals or meet school district requirements.

Question:
Where are the research projects located?
Answer:

Research projects will be in polar or sub-polar regions. PolarTREC research locations vary from year to year depending on the researchers who apply to host a teacher. When you apply to the program, you will not be selecting a specific expedition but rather specifying your science interests and your polar preference for the Arctic, Antarctic, or both.

In the past, Arctic field research sites have included well-established research stations (Toolik Station, Alaska and Summit Station, Greenland); communities (St. Paul, Alaska and Oulu, Finland); ship based expeditions (USCGC Healy in Bering Sea and Polar Sea in Arctic Ocean); or remote camps (Greenland, Russia, Alaska).

Previous Antarctic research sites have included McMurdo Station, South Pole Station, West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) Divide, McMurdo Dry Valleys, Mt. Erebus, and ship based expeditions (Oden, Palmer).

Question:
How is PolarTREC tracking the impacts of the program?
Answer:

Since 2007, PolarTREC has been working with external evaluator, Goldstream Group, Inc. to track and document program impacts on participating researchers, teachers, and their students. Evaluation reports can be found in Products.

Application

Question:
Can teachers who have previously participated in teacher research experience programs such as PolarTREC, TREC (Teachers and Researchers Exploring and Collaborating), TEA (Teachers Experiencing Antarctica and the Arctic), ARMADA, NOAA Teacher at Sea, etc. apply to PolarTREC?
Answer:

We no longer accept applications from PolarTREC alumni. Program alumni should contact the project managers to discuss ongoing research and their situation. We do accept applications from alumni of other programs; however, applicants should provide a sufficient argument in their application on how this experience will build on a previous research experience as preference is given to new educators that have never had a research experience.

Question:
Do you have to be a K-12 teacher to apply to the program (versus a non-formal educator or college level educator)?
Answer:

For 2019-2020, we are accepting applications from both U.S. informal science educators as well as formal U.S. classroom teachers (teaching in grades 6-12). Informal educators should have the primary focus on outreach to middle and high school students and/or professional development for their teachers.

Important: Final selection for this round of applications is pending funding from the National Science Foundation. We will keep all applicants informed of our funding status.

Question:
Do you have to be a U.S. citizen to apply to the program as a teacher?
Answer:

PolarTREC is a program for U.S. educators. Participants must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents of the United States or its possessions. U.S. educators teaching abroad should contact PolarTREC Project Managers at info [at] polartrec.com before applying.

Question:
What are the physical or age restrictions/qualifications?
Answer:

The physical work varies immensely among PolarTREC research projects; some may require long hours sitting on the ground or in a lab while others may require lifting heavy loads, large amounts of shoveling, or other strenuous activities. Because of this, there are no specific age or physical requirements to apply for PolarTREC. Applicants to PolarTREC may be asked about physical abilities during interviews with researchers to ensure good project matches. Anyone going to the Antarctic and some Arctic locations will have to complete a physical qualification process, which varies in rigor depending on age and medical history.

Question:
May I apply to PolarTREC to work in the field with a specific researcher that I already know?
Answer:

Yes, a teacher (formal or informal) and researcher with a pre-existing relationship may apply to work together, but they will be both be subject to the full selection process.

They must each fully complete their respective PolarTREC application by the application deadline and include the name of the individual in the space indicated on the application. Anyone applying with a pre-existing relationship are also required to jointly complete and submit a supplement to their applications due by the general application deadline.

Question:
How long does it take to complete the PolarTREC application?
Answer:

Program alumni have described spending several hours working on their PolarTREC application. It is a very competitive process, so it is worth spending the extra time to research the program, think through the essay questions, and have someone proof read your application.

Selection Process

Question:
How are educators paired with a researcher and an expedition?
Answer:

The top 100 teacher (informal & formal) applications are sent to the PolarTREC Selection Committee for review. The Selection Committee changes annually and consists of researchers, educators, polar logistics providers, and arctic residents. The Selection Committee narrows the applicant pool down to the top 30-40 applicants that seem best suited for the research projects available. At that point, PolarTREC staff select research projects based on your responses in the application. When you apply to the program, you will not be selecting a specific expedition but rather specifying your science interests and your polar preference for the Arctic, Antarctic, or both. You will also be discussing how this experience meets the needs of your classroom and what you teach. These answers will help in the matching of your application to a research project. The PolarTREC staff then sends each researcher a group of approximately 5 applications to review. Researchers select the top three applicants to interview, conduct phone interviews, and ultimately the research team selects which teacher will participate in their project.

Please note that the application and selection process are quite lengthy and it takes about 4-5 months to process and select the participants. The PolarTREC staff sends out regular emails to the candidates about the status of the selection process.

Question:
How many educators apply and how many are selected?
Answer:

Generally, we receive over 200 applications for the PolarTREC program each year. PolarTREC places approximately 12 educators per year in the program. Placement in PolarTREC is highly competitive, and applicants are encouraged to seek feedback about their applications and to reapply if not selected.

Question:
How many research projects will be selected for PolarTREC?
Answer:

PolarTREC will support approximately 12 projects per year—6 in the Arctic and 6 in the Antarctic. Depending on the dates and types of projects, this balance may vary.

Question:
How will I be notified of the status of my application?
Answer: Because of the large number of applications we receive, almost all communication regarding your application will be via e-mail until the final phases of the selection process. Please check your spam or junk mail filters if you have not heard from PolarTREC.
Question:
How will I know the status of my PolarTREC Application?
Answer:

We solicit for applications every fall and these are reviewed internally and with a selection committee in the following month. Following that, we notify applicants via email if they have been selected for the top pool of 40 applicants. This top pool will be further reviewed and may be selected for interviews with research teams. The process takes about 4 months to complete.

Participation

Question:
What are the costs associated with participation in PolarTREC?
Answer:

PolarTREC or the NSF logistics providers cover most costs associated with participation in the program. This includes travel, lodging, food, essential field gear, and substitute costs if you are on an expedition while your school is in session. Expenses educators may incur are likely to include personal apparel and gear not provided (long underwear, gloves, socks, etc.), some medical expenses or evacuation insurance if not included in your present insurance, personal travel or travel related to outreach activities before or after the expedition, and possible salary related losses depending on your school or business and their policies for leave.

Question:
Do PolarTREC participants (teachers, informal educators, or researchers) receive a stipend?
Answer:

No.

Question:
Is training provided for selected educators?
Answer:

Yes. Prior to going into the field, all selected participants will participate in two to four online webinars (web conferences) that provide background information about the program and additional training as needed. All selected educators are required to participate in a week-long orientation in Fairbanks, Alaska. The orientation provides training on journaling, photography, interactive technology tools, field communications, polar science content, education and outreach planning, and safety training. Additional training may be required but will be addressed on a case-by-case basis in pre-field logistic calls with your research team.

Question:
Is there support for selected educators and researchers to meet before or after the expedition?
Answer:

Yes, there is limited funding to support pre or post expedition meetings between the teams. If possible, educators are encouraged to visit their researcher's institution prior to going into the field so that they have an opportunity to meet the rest of the research team and learn more about the research project. The researcher may also travel to the educator's school or business. Other opportunities include funds to support travel to data workshops, planning meetings, or other professional conferences.

Question:
How much time will an educator be expected to spend outside of the classroom or away from their organization?
Answer:

Field research dates depend on the specific research project needs, but will be at least three weeks and possibly up to six or eight weeks. Selected finalists are asked if they will be available for the specific field dates. Schedule conflicts may prevent a selected finalist from being placed with a project for which they otherwise would be well suited. Scheduling is addressed on a case-by-case basis during the matching process. Keep in mind that the Arctic field season is usually during the summer months (May−August) and the Antarctic field season is during the austral summer (November−January). We do our best to minimize time away from school or work by scheduling conference calls to after-work hours or weekends.

Question:
Can my spouse or children come to the field with me during the expedition?
Answer:

No. The PolarTREC project is professional time for YOU, and we do not support additional family members participation in your project, nor do we encourage it.

Education and Outreach Activities

Question:
What type of classroom involvement is expected in PolarTREC?
Answer:

If you are classroom teacher, the PolarTREC program does not have specific classroom requirements. Teachers are expected to share what they are doing or have done with the experience both in and outside of the classroom. Past TREC and PolarTREC teachers have used this experience in a number of ways in their own classrooms and other types of outreach. Classroom involvement depends largely on field expedition dates. If school is out when a teacher is in the field some of the outreach tools, such as the live events might not involve students in real-time but can be shared with students upon returning from the field. Many teachers work intensively with their classes before leaving for the field, engaging their students in the planning process and getting them excited about the expedition so that students and families will be interested in following the expedition when school is not in session.

Question:
Is PolarTREC restricted to K-12 student involvement or are participants able to share their experiences with a wider audience?
Answer:

We encourage all participants (teachers, informal educators, researchers) to get involved in as many public outreach activities as possible and to share their knowledge and experience with a variety of audiences. Outreach is not limited to classrooms, schools and local communities. Many past TREC and PolarTREC alumni have shared their experiences at national or international conferences. Some have written articles for newspapers, magazines or academic journals and others have given interviews to radio and print media. PolarTREC staff will provide support whenever possible to help the research teams in their outreach endeavors. During the orientation event in Fairbanks, all selected participants will receive advice and training on how to address the media and make the most of public outreach activities.

Question:
What kind of resources are provided for conducting outreach from the field?
Answer:

As needed, PolarTREC provides a laptop computer with related accessories and a digital camera with video capability to each participating educator. Depending on the technology available at the field site, selected participants may also be provided with satellite phones, travel adaptors, or other devices in order to complete their outreach duties from the field.

Question:
I am still unsure about this and have questions, how can I learn more?
Answer:

We encourage you to contact the PolarTREC staff directly at info [at] polartrec.com to discuss your concerns and address your questions. We'd be happy to share contact information for educators that have participated in the program so you can get their perspective. Each year, we will also host a webinar for interested educators to learn more about the program. The webinar will be announced through our ARCUS and Polar Education list as well as posted on the PolarTREC website. All webinars are archived for later viewing.