Research Experience for Teachers (RET)

  • Teachers from Prince George's County Public School District participating in a teacher training program.

    Teachers from Prince George's County Public School District participating in a teacher training program.

  • Teachers in a professional development workshop.

    Teachers in a professional development workshop.

Applications for 2024 Research Experience for Teachers program are now OPEN!

Through the Research Experience for Teachers (RET) summer program at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC), local middle school teachers will have the opportunity to work with environmental scientists. Teachers will have opportunities for hands-on fieldwork and lab work experiences working side-by-side with researchers. Additionally, teachers will participate in professional development workshops designed to help them work with students outdoors and integrate real world data and data analysis into their classrooms. Over the summer, teachers are expected to develop at least one lesson plan based on their experiences that they can implement in their classrooms during the school year. SERC researchers and education staff will continue to serve as a resource for teachers and students throughout the school year.  

Teachers will be expected to be on-site at SERC at least 3 days per week. The specific days will vary based on the projects that you are involved with over the summer.

We anticipate selecting 8 teachers as part of the Summer 2024 RET cohort. All accepted teachers must be classroom science teachers. We are prioritizing middle school teachers from Anne Arundel County Public Schools, Baltimore City Public Schools, and Prince George's County Public Schools in Maryland and Washington DC Public Schools. 

Benefits for teachers: 

  • Participate in cutting-edge environmental science research 
  • Participate in professional development activities
  • Opportunity to conduct an independent research project 
  • $8,100 stipend 
  • Costs covered (including sub coverage) to attend a professional research or STEM education conference 
  • $2,500 for supplies to implement new activities based on your RET experience in your classroom 
  • $1,200 to support a field trip to a local STEM organization 
  • Classroom visit (in-person or virtual) from SERC researchers 
  • Opportunity to receive up to 5 continuing professional development credits (MD-based teachers only)
  • Smithsonian badge which allows you to access museums through the staff entrance and receive a discount in all Smithsonian museum stores 

Program Details for 2024: 

  • Each selected teacher will be embedded in a host research lab. You will spend approximately 4 days per week engaging with staff from your lab (can be a combination of in-person and remote) and approximately 1 day per week engaging in professional development activities as a cohort (in-person).
    • You will work with your lab to determine which days you need to be on campus each week. The schedule will be different for each teacher.
  • Program activities will cover a total of 9 weeks total, with most program activities occurring during the summer.
  • 6 weeks engaging in research and professional development activities (July 1-August 9) over the summer. You are expected to be on campus a minimum of 3 days per week during this time period.
    • We understand that this is a huge commitment of time. However, we have also found that the program is more beneficial when participants are able to participate in lab work and fieldwork opportunities. 
  • 1 week to finalize draft lesson plans and related content (August 12 -August 16) (will occur remotely)
  • Up to 2 weeks to develop and participate in activities (i.e., attending a conference with your lab mentor, presenting your work at SERC) during the school year. You will be asked to come to SERC to share information about how you implemented content related to your summer experience during the spring. You will also be expected to submit a final, classroom-tested version of any lesson plans and associated content by the end of the 2024-2025 school year.
  • Priority given to teachers from Anne Arundel County Public Schools, Baltimore City Public Schools, and Prince George’s County Public Schools in Maryland, and Washington DC Public Schools. 

Click here to start your application!

Applications are due by February 29. Applicants will be notified of decisions in mid-March.

The application system is managed by the National Science Foundation (NSF). They request a lot of information (e.g. information about your educational background and your family background). You can skip most of these questions! What we really need you to fill out are the Personal Information section, Work Experience, and Additional Questions and Materials sections.

You can view the questions from the Additional Questions or Materials section as a Word document below if you would like to preview it before you start working on the actual form. 

Have Question? Please reach out!

If you have questions about the program, please email program lead Alison Cawood at Our team would be happy to set up a time to talk to you individually or to a group of teachers at the same school if multiple people are interested. You can also read about the experiences of a few of our program alumni here and here.