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 at naturalsciences.org/learn/online-adventures.

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.


2018 Educators of Excellence Institutes

New England Institute

  • Go on a whale watch.
  • Backpack hut to hut in New Hampshire’s White Mountains.
  • Participate in ongoing scientific research.
  • Explore the impact of climate change on marine and terrestrial ecosystems.

Participants will experience the rocky New England coast and the high peaks of New Hampshire’s White Mountains. Educators will spend five days at Shoals Marine Laboratory (Appledore Island, ME) and three days hiking between Mt. Washington Observatory and AMC Highland Center at Crawford Notch (White Mountains, NH). The daily program will include practical field experiences, basic local natural history, and easily duplicated techniques for teaching natural sciences. During the trip, participants will provide daily updates to students in North Carolina via a blog. This program is designed to give educators a direct experience with environments and concepts that are part of the classroom curriculum including developing a deeper understanding of the impacts of climate change. Participants will have the opportunity to engage in ongoing scientific research and citizen science projects.

Dates: June 20–28, 2018. (Mandatory pre- and post-trip sessions will be held in Raleigh on April 14 and November 3, 2018.)

Locations: Appledore Island, ME; White Mountains, NH and Raleigh, NC.

Participants: Limited to 12.

Activity Level: Strenuous. Participants will walk and hike across rough, rocky terrain, possibly in severe weather. Participants should be physically fit and capable of carrying a backpack up to 25 lbs. for 4-6 hours of hiking at 4,000-6,000’ elevation. There will be some steep ascents/descents and uneven trails.

Cost: $1,300 (includes supplies, round-trip airfare from Raleigh to New England, ground transportation, instruction, lodging, and most meals). Participants will be responsible for travel to and from Raleigh, expenses in Raleigh during pre- and post-trip sessions, and personal expenses.


Tropical Ecology Institute

  • Explore a tropical rain forest.
  • Visit Mayan ruins.
  • Canoe a tropical river.
  • Visit a Belizean classroom.

Participants will experience several tropical habitats including coral reefs, mangrove swamps, and rain forests. The daily program will include practical field experiences, basic local natural history, and easily duplicated techniques for teaching natural sciences. During the trip, participants will provide daily updates to students in North Carolina via a blog. This program is designed to give educators a direct experience with environments and concepts that are part of the classroom curriculum. Participants will spend time at a Belizean school interacting with teachers and students.

Read daily journals from the Tropical Ecology Institute blog.

Dates: July 24–August 1, 2018. (Mandatory pre- and post-trip sessions will be held in Raleigh on April 21 and November 3, 2018.)

Location: Belize, Central America and Raleigh, NC.

Participants: Limited to 12. (Note: Belizean teachers will join American educators to form an international team that shares teaching techniques.)

Activity Level: Moderate to rigorous, including walking/hiking in tropical (high heat/humidity) settings, canoeing and snorkeling

Cost: $1,300 (includes supplies, round-trip airfare from Raleigh to Belize, ground transportation, instruction, lodging, and meals). Participants will be responsible for travel to and from Raleigh, expenses in Raleigh during pre- and post-trip sessions, and personal expenses.


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.

Application Deadline: Monday, March 5, 2018. The application consists of the Educator Application and a Supervisor Recommendation. Both must be received by March 5 to be considered.

Notification: Applicants will be notified by email by April 9, 2018.

Educator Application
Supervisor Recommendation


Staff