Bridge your Science to the Public with a PolarTREC Teacher!

By Kristin Timm

Despite language differences, PolarTREC Teacher Tim Martin works with an international research team at Lake El’gygytgyn in Northeast Siberia. All photos courtesy ARCUS

PolarTREC - Teachers and Researchers Exploring and Collaborating, a project of the Arctic Research Consortium of the U.S. funded by the National Science Foundation - matches K-12 teachers with polar researchers to participate in polar research, as a pathway to improve science education. The program integrates research and education to produce long-term teacher-researcher collaborations, improved teacher content knowledge and instructional practices, and broad public interest and engagement in polar science.

Through PolarTREC, primarily K-12 teachers spend two to six weeks in the Arctic or Antarctic, working as an active and integral part of the science team. While in the field, teachers and researchers communicate extensively with students across the globe, using a variety of tools including online journals, forums, and interactive webinars that often reach hundreds of students at a time. Researchers report that the outreach activities provided through PolarTREC help bridge their science and the public and makes broader impacts fun, rewarding, and easy.

PolarTREC Teacher, Tom Harten, a.k.a. the “Murre-minator,” prepares for another day’s work marking sea birds in the Pribilof Islands.

“I have a much stronger belief in the work I do now that I know that there are people out there who value my work,” one researcher said after participating in PolarTREC. “The experience I gained in working with both PolarTREC and their top-notch teachers taught me how to communicate my research better and even how to more effectively plan my research program so that it can be embedded into larger interdisciplinary problems.” According to initial evaluation data, other PolarTREC researchers reflected similar satisfaction with their participation in the program. Many also added that both their research and the scientific process benefit from including a teacher on their team. The need to explain their research and “boil it down to the raw essence” helped the research teams see how their work fits into a “bigger world picture” and how they can present their science effectively to a broad audience.

PolarTREC Teacher Simone Welch works with researchers onboard the USCGC Healy slicing and preparing ice cores for analysis back in the lab.

PolarTREC applicants (teachers and researchers) are thoroughly reviewed by a selection committee of their peers, and initial matches are based on similar science interests. Researchers selected to participate in PolarTREC receive about eight best match teacher applications, have the opportunity to interview three of them, and then make the final selection. Selected teachers participate in an intensive orientation and are trained extensively prior to the field season. Working with their researchers before the field season, teachers also acquire any needed equipment training, build their science knowledge, and get to know the team they will be working with. After the field season, teachers and researchers have sustained their relationships through co-presenting at scientific meetings and to schools and community groups, participating in data workshops, jointly creating classroom lesson plans, and writing proposals for future work together.

Working with a team of archaeologists and undergraduate students in Finland, PolarTREC Teacher Michael Wing clears vegetation at the Hiidenkangas Site.

Apply Now!

PolarTREC is currently accepting applications from researchers for the fourth year of teacher research experiences. Researchers are invited to submit an application to host a PolarTREC teacher in the 2010 Arctic and/or the 2010/2011 Antarctic field seasons. More information and application forms are available at:

Funding is pending for PolarTREC during the 2010 Arctic field season and the 2010-2011 Antarctic field season. ARCUS will keep researcher applicants informed of our funding status. If funding is secured, final matches should be made in December 2009 or January 2010.  

For More Information:

A one-hour informational webinar for researchers interested in hosting a PolarTREC teacher on their polar research project will be held on 18 August 2009 at 10:00 am ADT (8:00 am HST, 11:00 am PDT, 12:00 am MDT, 1:00 pm CDT, 2:00 pm EDT). Please register for the event at: by 17 August 2009.

Questions? Please contact or call 907-474-1600.