• Heather McKee

Top 13 Professional Development Programs and Trainings for Science Teachers

At EPI, we love science teachers, and we think you don’t get nearly enough credit for the amazing work you do. Think about it. You’re responsible for teaching students how to think critically through science education. You connect them to an entire field of knowledge, to new studies, and emerging research. And you inspire them to become doctors, engineers, conservation and marine biologists, or maybe even, you guessed it, science teachers! It’s like the circle of life…

So for you, science teachers, EPI has put together a list of the most incredible professional development opportunities with nonprofit organizations around the country. Best of all we made sure these programs are all sponsored or grant-funded, so you don’t have to spend too much (if any) of your hard-earned pay.

Many of these programs especially seek folks that are underrepresented in science or that teach in schools in impoverished areas. If that sounds like you, you should go for it! If that doesn’t sound like you, you should also go for it! Science teachers everywhere deserve to learn and grow and be inspired.

And now, to kick things off, we’ll begin not-so-humbly with what we think is one of the best programs out there, EPI’s own professional development program, the Teacher Fellowships.

1. Ecology Project International’s Teacher Fellowships

Ecology Project International’s (EPI) Teacher Fellowships are eight-day professional development dreams for science teachers, at one of the nonprofit organization’s field sites – Mexico, Costa Rica, and Yellowstone National Park. Science teachers will be immersed in conservation science research, building their own data collection skills through monitoring leatherback sea turtle nests at Pacuare Reserve in Costa Rica or assisting Yellowstone biologists with tracking bison movements. Our local site staff, field instructors, and science research partners in each location will guide activities to help you generate your own curriculum to build environmental literacy in your classroom. EPI’s Teacher Fellows are generously funded by EPI donors, and teachers generally pay between $250-$600, plus airfare. Increíble!

Another option?  Check out EPI’s new NGSS Trainings in Costa Rica, Yellowstone, and the Galapagos. Each course is focused on the understanding, use, and design of NGSS curricula.  This isn’t a fellowship, but if you want university credit, it’s the way to go!

2. Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Summer Educator Retreat

Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Summer Educator Retreat is a four-day, bird-focused field trip in Ithaca, New York for science educators. Been wondering how to incorporate citizen science into your curriculum and classroom? You’ll learn that here -- through Cornell’s E-bird program and materials. Local ornithologists and educators will lead expert bird walks in the Finger Lakes area and Sapsucker Woods so you can bone up on your bird identification and appreciation. You will have guided time learning how to use the free online bird resources Cornell Lab of Ornithology offers, and be able to choose and take home one of four eBird kits. Grant and sponsor funds cover much of the science teacher professional development workshop, so science teachers pay a modest $495 for the retreat, 3 credits from Cornell University, and all meals. A range of lodging options is available for an additional cost, from shared townhomes on campus to local hotels.

3. McDonald Observatory Teacher Workshops

Fancy a few evenings in the mountains stargazing, using the fancy equipment of a real observatory? You’ll get to do just that in one of McDonald Observatory’s three-day Teacher Workshops in the Davis Mountains of West Texas. Workshops themes include: Mysteries of the Universe, Elements of the Cosmos, Galaxies and HETDEX, and Explore Our Solar System. During the daylight, you’ll work through inquiry-based activities with astronomy educators, and in the evenings…well, you can probably guess. Evening observations will include explanations of “how astronomers use research telescopes to explore the Universe and make ground-breaking discoveries.” A generously sponsored $100 fee covers your lodging at the Astronomer’s Lodge on Mount Locke, as well as all materials and meals.

4. Teacher Workshops in Conservation Science at the San Diego Zoo

The San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research offers professional development workshops for middle and high school science teachers from anywhere in the world. You’ll spend your days studying in the Conservation Education Lab and immersing yourself in hoots and howls of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in the evenings, learning with staff how to “frame content standards in the context of wildlife conservation,” and how to create activities that encourage students to problem solve global biodiversity issues. Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) have been considered in all lessons and curricula, and all activities can be brought back to the classroom. The workshops are supported by grants, and science teachers won’t pay a cent (except getting there). Lodging and all meals are covered, and you even receive a $500 stipend at the completion of the program.

5. EinsteinPlus with the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics

Dark matter, electron experiments, GPS and relativity, oh my! EinsteinPlus is a week-long professional development workshop at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Canada, for science teachers who want to learn more about how to teach modern physics in new ways. You will learn directly from physicists at the cutting edge of their field, get to tour their labs and see the equipment they use to try to more deeply understand the physical aspects of our universe. Built-in social events with other science teachers will allow you to share your own inspirations, puzzlements, and thoughts on the teaching strategies and research presented. The program fee for science teachers is a generously subsidized $300, which covers activities, accommodations, and meals. Canadian teachers will have their travel expenses covered (international teachers fund their own travel to the Institute).

6. Summer Institute for Climate Change Education

Teaching climate change is hard. The three-day Summer Institute for Climate Change Education, offered through Climate Generation (founded by polar explorer Will Steger ten years ago) aims to help science teachers teach the difficult subject of climate change. Workshops and events at an annually rotating location include: Foundations in Climate Science, World Climate Simulation, and breakout sessions to discuss planning and implementation of climate change curricula with other science teachers. You’ll use Washington D.C.’s Climate Action Plan as a case study to dive into climate policy. And you’ll also get to take part in social activities like Climate Trivia Happy Hour (cheers!), go on a field trip of your choice to a local site, and share daily lunches with other science teachers.  Registration for the three-day course, including lunches, is $150, and scholarships are available.

7.  Foothills to Tundra: The Changing Ecosystems and Biomes of Rocky Mountain National Park

Speaking of climate change, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science offers this four-day residential course focused on the changing ecosystems in Rocky Mountain National Park to science teachers AND the public (read: you can bring a friend). The museum believes “that climate change education is at the very heart of our mission.” You’ll be involved with phenology and climate change research through two citizen science programs, while taking day-long journeys into the UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, Rocky Mountain National Park. Campfires, ancient archaeological sites, and learning from naturalists will all weigh in, too. A grant-supported $300 fee covers your lodging, day trips, and food. (If you miss the boat on this fast-filling course, they do offer other awesome NGSS curriculum-based teacher professional development here.)

8. Wings Over Water Summer Institute

Montana Natural History Center’s Wings Over Water (WOW) program offers middle and high school science teachers in the western U.S. a week-long summer institute connecting with raptor biologists, aerospace engineers, and physicists at the University of Montana and beyond, while getting hands-on with the WOW curriculum. The WOW curriculum was designed using the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), and is centered on the common and dynamic fishing raptor, the osprey. Through the week, you’ll get hands-on with the curriculum: four modules, from the Physics of Flight to Osprey Biology, offer inquiry-based, engineering, data analysis, and citizen science lessons. In the evenings, you’ll get to kick back under the big sky with your fellow science teachers at delicious dinners hosted by local nonprofits in Missoula. Best? You will get to bring the WOW NGSS curriculum back to your classroom, and continue collaborating with your fellow teachers through WOW’s distance learning website. Housing, delicious meals, and tuition is paid for.

9. The Exploratorium’s Summer Institute for Teachers

What is the best kind of professional development for science teachers? PAID professional development! The public learning laboratory Exploratorium in San Francisco, California, is offering a stipend of $2500 at the end of their three-week Summer Institute for Teachers. The NGSS-focused program gives science teachers the opportunity to work with staff scientists and educators to discover new forms of science teaching. You will get to explore (see what we did there?) the museum’s super fun and educational exhibits, and how they work to educate and inspire visitors. You will also be an active participant in hands-on investigations of human perception, mathematics, and physical, life, and earth sciences – always with the goal of helping you use an NGSS curriculum in your classroom. Breakfasts and all programming are FREE, and although travel, lodging, and other meals are not included, that $2500 science teacher stipend awarded at the end of the course, oughta cover it. The Exploratorium’s staff is also happy to help science teachers find shared housing to reduce costs.

10. Fermilab’s Teacher Research Associates

Another PAID science teacher professional development opportunity! Fermilab, the internationally renowned particle physics and accelerator laboratory in Batavia, Illinois, has been working since for over fifty years to answer fundamental questions about our universe. Science, math, computer science, and technology middle and high school teachers are encouraged to apply for one of their summer-long Teacher Research Associate (TRAC) positions, offering research and mentorship experiences in science, engineering, or technology. Past teacher research projects have included projects from helping to build parts of a neutrino detector to making CAD (computer-aided design) drawings for an engineer. Fermilab’s vision is to: “Solve the mysteries of matter, energy, space, and time for the benefit of all.” Want to be part of that? They want you to, too. Salary for the position is $1,040 per WEEK. Go for it!

11. Lloyd Bridges Scholarship with CEDAM International

Are you a SCUBA diver AND a science teacher or educator? First, that’s awesome. Second, we have the perfect science teacher professional development program for you. The Lloyd Bridges Scholarship with CEDAM International will fund (entirely) one science teacher to join a REEF Fish Survey Trip in Bonaire. Are you kidding us? Science teachers or science educators will be active in collecting data for the Bonaire Fish Survey, working directly with REEF staff and volunteers, and will have plenty of experiential learning in the water. CEDAM is a marine conservation organization, and wants their scholar to be able to share their firsthand “joys and wonders” of the marine world with their students or audiences, and be inspired to continue and grow their own personal work in conservation of the delicate reef ecosystems of the earth. Did we already say that this lucky science teacher or science educator will have their entire program (including airfare, meals, lodging, etc.) paid for?

12. Project Atmosphere Workshop

How do meteorologists know where a hurricane is going to strike? How do they make predictions for our weather? The American Meteorological Society’s Project Atmosphere offers an online plus five-day on-site residence at the National Weather Service Training Center in Kansas, Missouri for science teachers who teach courses with atmospheric content. You will get to see the latest in weather sensing and forecasting technologies, and spend time on learning and teaching about subjects like radar imagery interpretation, global climate change, and severe storms. Staff have impressive pedigrees and titles; you’ll be learning from the best. You’ll be expected to go back to your school and share the good word with other teachers about teaching atmospheric science, and you’ll be well equipped. Science teacher participants will receive a $300 stipend, plus lodging, air or land travel expenses, tuition AND a food allowance. Happy storm chasing!

13. National Geographic’s “Teaching Global Climate Change in Your Classroom”

OK, so this one doesn’t send you anywhere like Bonaire or Baja, but it will definitely give you some tools to help you teach students about how climate change is affecting places like the reefs of Bonaire and Belize, which is just as important (if not more?). So saddle up to your computer in your comfiest jammies, and get ready for some online learning with fellow concerned science teachers, and for some of the best professional development on climate change that National Geographic has to offer science teachers and science educators. “Teaching Global Climate Change in Your Classroom” is an NGSS-focused science teacher professional development program, and is a 45-hour program, run over several months. National Geographic also offers the more well-known, and perhaps more epic, Grosvenor Teacher Fellowship, but you’ll have to change out of your jammies to get on that boat.

Do you know of another amazing professional development opportunity, training, or NGSS program for science teachers? Share it in the comments below!




Ecology Project International

315 S. 4th Street. E.

Missoula, MT 59801

P 406.721.8784

F 406.721.7060



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Ecology Project International (EPI) is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization © 2020