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TEA Guidelines

About the TEA Program


What is TEA?

The centerpiece of the Teachers Experiencing Antarctica and the Arctic (TEA) Program is a research experience in which a K-12 teacher parcticipates in a polar expedition. The TEA teacher works closely with scientists, parcticipates in cutting-edge research, and is immersed in the process of science. Enveloping this field experience is a diversity of professional development opportunities through which TEA teachers increase content knowledge, enhance teaching skills, transfer the experience to the classroom, assume leadership roles, and collaborate with a network of researchers and education colleagues. TEA is a partnership between teachers, researchers, students, the school district, and the community.

The program is facilitated by Rice University of Houston, Texas, the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL) in Hanover, New Hampshire, and the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York, New York. It is funded by the Division of Elementary, Secondary, and Informal Education (ESIE) of the Directorate for Education and Human Resources (EHR), and the Office of Polar Programs (OPP) at the National Science Foundation (NSF).


What are the goals of TEA?

  • To immerse teachers in a research experience as a component of their continued professional development.
  • To have research experiences inform teaching practices; science investigations in the classroom should model the scientific process and the manner in which science is conducted.
  • To carry the polar research experience into classrooms in rich, engaging, and innovative ways that underscore the relevance of science and the scientific process to society and individuals.
  • To establish a growing, collaborative "Polar Learning Community" of teachers, students, school districts, researchers, and the community to build on the TEA experience.

Each TEA experience is an individual one. Through the network of the TEA Polar Learning Community, parcticipants leverage their experiences, build on their strengths, strengthen their weaknesses, and collaborate to bring their field-experience-inspired approach to science to their classrooms and community.


Why Research Experiences?

Research experiences take the teacher and classroom beyond textbook science. The experiences are not about a parcticular piece of science content — they are about the process of science and immersion in that process.

The National Science Education Standards focus on providing inquiry based experiences for students, showing that science is a human endeavor, and underscoring the relevance of science to societal issues. Research experiences, such as TEA, are an opportunity for teachers to become immersed in the process of science and bring it home "alive" to the classroom.

Research experiences provide access to science content and processes for new teachers who may have little science experience, and assist the experienced teachers in remaining current in the field they are teaching. In collaboration with teachers, the TEA Program works to:

  • Change science education in the classroom
  • Improve science literacy
  • Change general public attitudes about science

Instituting change necessitates a long-term investment by all community members. Community support is necessary for leveraging the learning and transferring it to the classrooms through access to resources, tools, training, and technology.

Research Experiences are not solely about teachers and classrooms. The community involves many others including researchers, teaching colleagues, administrators, and students. There are benefits to all involved. Through research experiences:

  • parcticipating teachers remain current in their field and provide a research network for colleagues
  • schools and districts integrate technology and current science content into the curriculum
  • researchers are exposed to new ways of thinking and teaching
  • community members increase their understanding of science and how science affects society


How did the TEA program get started?

TEA has its origins in the Young Scholars Program. Originally, high school students were selected to go to the Antarctic. Many of these students graduated, limiting their impact in the classroom in the following year. In 1992, several teachers parcticipated in an orientation workshop for the selected students. Knowing that one of the goals of the program was to transfer the experience into the classroom, the teachers suggested that they should also go to Antarctica. The teachers could maintain contact with other teachers, the students, and the community for an extended period of time. That year marks the initiation of the TEA program; five teachers headed south. The Arctic program began in 1996 with one teacher joining a research expedition. The following season three teachers parcticipated as members of Arctic research teams, solidifying the Arctic component of the TEA program.

With the solidification of the TEA network, the emphasis on sharing this experience with the entire community increased. TEA is about sharing and collaborating within the TEA network and within an individual TEA’s community through activities development, mentoring, presentations, etc.


How do teachers get involved?

There are two ways to become involved:

  • Become a TEA Associate
  • Apply for the TEA field program

TEA Associates are teachers, researchers, and administrators involved in the TEA Polar Learning Community. They may or may not wish to parcticipate in the field experience, but they do have a strong commitment and interest in bringing research experiences and polar science into the classroom. For more information about becoming a TEA Associate, please visit: ../associatesinfo.html

For teachers interested in applying to the field program, The application can be requested at ../join_tea_reply.html. Following completion of a short survey, you will be mailed an electronic version of the application. Applications deadlines occur once each year and are posted on the application Web page.


How many teachers parcticipate in TEA each year?

The number varies, depending on the funding level available to the program and the quality of applicants each year. Typically, 12 teachers are selected to parcticipate.


Who pays for a TEA teacher’s parcticipation in the program?

The teacher remains on salary in their school district during their field experience. The NSF/ESIE/OPP covers teacher costs for a visit to the researcher’s institution, transportation and accommodations en route to the field site, the required medical examination, and a substitute teacher as needed. Cold weather gear is provided to TEA parcticipants on loan. ESIE provides funds for parcticipation in a variety of professional development meetings before and after the field experience.


What is involved when a teacher is selected for the field program?

One of the greatest responsibilities of the TEA teachers is to share their experience with others; few teachers and students will have an opportunity to travel to the polar regions and parcticipate in cutting-edge research. While in the field, TEA teachers convey their experiences, scientific and personal, back to classrooms through daily electronic journals, electronic communications with classes, and Live Audio sessions. Once home, TEA parcticipants work with their school district to effectively bring the polar experience into the classroom. They mentor TEA Associate teachers and colleagues, and collaborate to develop classroom activities and materials that grow from their experiences and research. TEA teachers present their experiences to the community, and parcticipate in national education meetings and workshops. TEA teachers take a lead role in the Polar Learning Community.

Parcticipants must:

  • attend a week-long summer orientation
  • prepare with the researcher at the researcher’s institution for prior to the research experience
  • parcticipate in the field experience:
    • Arctic: A 3 to 8 week period during the spring to fall
    • Antarctic: a minimum of a 6 week period during the Antarctic summer research season
  • mentor three colleagues (face to face) each for a minimum of 140 hours total before, during and after the field experience
  • transfer the experience to students and colleagues through activities development, infusion into the curriculum, presentations, workshops, etc.
  • maintain an interactive role in the TEA Polar Learning Community for three years following the research experience through mentoring, activity development, presentations, continued communication with the researchers, etc.


*Specific dates will be determined by the research scientist’s scheduled time in the field and are not negotiable by the TEA teacher or the district.

Return to the Researcher Information Page