George Lucas Educational Foundation
Professional Development

Honing Your Craft With Summer Training

A list of opportunities for summer travel that combines exploration and professional development.

April 18, 2019
A woman in sunglasses and a hat sitting on a train on a sunny day with the window cracked open, reading a book
©Shutterstock/AppleZoomZoom

While I love my work as an educator, there are times when I think, “How many days until summer break?” For some teachers, summer means thinking about anything but their classroom. For others, summer provides a unique opportunity to make space to consider exciting and innovative aspects of our practice. 

And summer does hold many opportunities for professional development for teachers. 

In the United States

National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminars: The National Endowment for the Humanities offers a number of summer seminars, from studying Jewish communities in the South to exploring immigrant literature in Florida. The NEH offers stipends to help offset travel and living costs.

I participated in Re-enchanting Nature, a seminar where we hiked and stayed in Helena, Montana, for two weeks while studying writings on nature and conservation and taking classes from poets and Native American educators. We also spent a week of exploration in Yellowstone National Park. It was an experience that not only helped me to better understand the power of storytelling in different settings but pushed me to partner more with our science teachers.

Opal School Summer Symposium: The Opal School, in Portland, Oregon, provides a three-day intensive course to consider creative and cognitive capacities, including hands-on workshops by master teachers, time to collaborate with teachers across the nation, and opportunities to dive deep into cognitive and inquiry-based research. One teacher said, “This solidified the fact that inquiry-based teaching extends far beyond the classroom and is the foundation for creating the world of inventiveness, equity, collaboration, and empathy that we so wish to see.” There are some scholarship opportunities to help cover the cost. 

Yellowstone Teacher Workshop: This STEAM program gives teachers the opportunity to discuss, plan, and explore how to incorporate science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics education into their classroom using innovative and cross-curricular methods. All of this is done against the incredible backdrop of Yellowstone National Park. Teachers cover travel costs to Yellowstone, and all meals and lodging are provided.  

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International Opportunities

Fulbright Teachers for Global Classrooms Program: Fulbright is a well-known name in academia. This Fulbright program offers multiple collaborative workshops across the globe. The yearlong program concentrates on professional development and provides spring and summer travel components. Program costs are covered. 

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Teachers often feel as though we’re captaining a ship—now we can actually live on a ship. The Teacher at Sea program hosts educators for two weeks to one month. On board, teachers help with basic duties, write three or four logs per week about their experience, and share their experience and findings in some way with others. One teacher, Sam Northern, shared, “I gained real-world research experience working with scientists on the Atlantic Ocean. Our mission was to research the hydrographic and planktonic components of the Northeast U.S. Continental Shelf. This 10-day excursion gave me an understanding of the world’s oceans, marine biology, and how real governmental field science is conducted, which I was able to translate to my students.” NOAA covers the cost. 

The Goethe-Institut’s Transatlantic Outreach Program: This fellowship allows K–12 teachers to live in Germany for two weeks and connect with German educators about curricula, STEM, and social studies. It also gives educators the chance to explore and understand German culture. Costs are covered.

World Leadership School’s Summer Symposia: The program, run in conjunction with Global Education Benchmark Group, provides “a unique experience for schools to take a deep dive into Mexico/U.S. border relations and the specifics of immigration practices in the U.S.... as well as an opportunity to design, plan, and prepare applicable lessons to use in the classroom in the following school year.” Program costs range from $1,100 to $3,080, but the program offers scholarships.

Working Abroad

For educators who want to work abroad in the summer, an international school can be an option. Teaching abroad combines the opportunity to travel with a chance to hone your practice in an international setting. Websites like GoAbroad and GoOverseas can help you find positions and answer important logistical questions about things like visas.

Self-Guided Opportunities

For teachers who need flexibility, creating your own opportunity may be the best option. 

Fund for Teachers: The Fund for Teachers provides financial support for educators to design and participate in self-guided study both in the United States and around the world. One teacher, Sarah Milianta-Laffin, traveled to Greece and Crete for a workshop. She said, “My 2013 fellowship goal was to move my project-based learning focus from STEM to STEAM.... We had fun homework assignments like observing locals in cafes or photographing interesting doors as we walked a neighborhood. It was the first ‘class’ I’d taken that wasn’t sit-and-get professional development.” Milianta-Laffin also noted that “one teacher fellow can ask for [a grant of] up to $5,000, and a team of two or more teachers can ask for up to $10,000.”

Facing History and Ourselves: The program offers engaging webinars and on-demand learning, and Teaching Tolerance has a self-guided learning program that allows teachers to create their own professional development. The options are perfect for teachers who can’t travel or who are traveling on their own and want to use some of that time for professional development.

For other possibilities, see this list or the opportunities listed at Teaching Traveling.

During the school year, it’s essential that we remain present and grounded in our classrooms and the communities we serve. The beauty of summer is that it allows us to step out of the spaces we so carefully cultivate so that we can rejuvenate and cultivate ourselves. 

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