About PolarTREC

PolarTREC teacher Nikki Airaudi at Summit, GreenlandPolarTREC teacher Nikki Airaudi at Summit, Greenland PolarTREC (Teachers and Researchers Exploring and Collaborating) is a program in which K-12 teachers spend 3-6 weeks participating in hands-on field research experiences in the polar regions. The goal of PolarTREC is to invigorate polar science education and understanding by bringing K-12 educators and polar researchers together.

Program Development

PolarTREC was developed based on the strengths of the past PolarTREC (2007-2009) and TREC programs, as well as other teacher research experience (TRE's) programs.

Built on the successes of the previous three-year program and adapted to further meet diverse participant needs, PolarTREC is a multi-year project with four major categories of interrelated activities making up the PolarTREC Teacher Research Experience Model.

The main components of PolarTREC Include:

  • provide hands-on field research experiences that are implemented in the polar regions;
  • broadly disseminate teacher experiences to students, professionals, and the public;
  • develop a sustainable learning community; and
  • provide clear and appropriate measures of project success.

PolarTREC teacher Michelle Brown and students try on Extreme Cold Weather PolarTREC teacher Michelle Brown and students try on Extreme Cold Weather gear

Polar Field Research Experience: The core of the PolarTREC program is the field research experience, whereby PolarTREC teachers participate in field research in the Arctic or Antarctic for three to six weeks. Selected research projects represent the leading edge of scientific inquiry and include the K-12 teacher as an integral part of the science team.

Classroom and Public Connections: While in the field, teachers and researchers connect with classrooms and the public through use of Internet tools such as online teacher and researcher journals, message boards, photo albums, podcasts, "PolarConnect" calls and presentations from the field, and online learning resources. After the field experience, teachers and researchers continue to share their experience with the public through public presentations, scientific conferences, teacher workshops, and journal articles. Each PolarTREC teacher also creates instructional activities to transfer scientific data, methodologies, and technology into their classrooms.

Professional Development: PolarTREC provides professional development opportunities for teachers who participate in field research projects as well as educators who connect through the Internet. PolarTREC provides a variety of content, tools, and web seminars geared towards subject matter learning, teaching practices, and alignment of PolarTREC experiences with current professional teaching standards. At the end of the project period, a culminating ShareFair workshop will be held to present and share PolarTREC products and results among PolarTREC participants and other interested educators, researchers, and agency personnel.

Sustained Community and Support: The PolarTREC program is designed to extend the experience beyond field research to support a sustained community of teachers, scientists, students, and the public through online seminars, an e-mail listserve, and teacher-to-teacher peer groups. New PolarTREC teachers will have the opportunity to work closely with an experienced Partner Teacher (teachers that have participated in a teacher research experience) on aspects of their research experience and educational plans.


What does a successful PolarTREC experience look like for a researcher? Our litmus test of success is if a researcher returns to PolarTREC to host another teacher. Success also may involve lots of outreach about the expedition, new lesson plans created by the teacher about your science, or lots of participants attending a PolarConnect event. Below is a graphic showing what success looked liked for the 2013-2014 season. 2013-2014 Infographic about PolarTREC2013-2014 Infographic about PolarTREC

Funding and Support

PolarTREC teacher John Wood at the Arctic Circle, AlaskaPolarTREC teacher John Wood at the Arctic Circle, Alaska The PolarTREC program is managed by the Arctic Research Consortium of the United States (ARCUS), a non profit based in Alaska and Washington D.C. ARCUS is a consortium of educational and scientific members that have a substantial commitment to arctic research. ARCUS was awarded funding from the National Science Foundation Division of Polar Programs for PolarTREC during the International Polar Year (2007-2009) project and then awarded continued funding from 2010 through 2013. In 2014, ARCUS received additional funding for one year (2014-2015). In November of 2015, ARCUS was awarded funding for an additional year (2016-2017). Funding for 2017-2018 is pending from NSF Division of Polar Programs.

In addition, ARCUS works with other organizations, NASA and NOAA, to host a few additional teachers through the PolarTREC program.

Through a contract with the National Science Foundation, PolarTREC works closely with CH2M Hill Polar Services (CPS) and Antarctica Support Contract (ASC) to provide logistical support to PolarTREC teachers embarking on field expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic. CPS is the National Science Foundation's (NSF) arctic logistics contractor and supports NSF-funded researchers and personnel working across the Arctic by coordinating travel, logistics and equipment needs. Antarctica Support Contract provides all logistical support to the United States Antarctic Program by arranging travel, medical clearance and providing cold weather clothing and equipment to all US participants.


info [at] polartrec.com ARCUS, 3535 College Road, Suite 101 Fairbanks, AK 99709 Phone: 907-474-1600