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 2023 RET Externships 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 alongside 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.  

If you have questions about the program, please email program lead Alison Cawood at We would be happy 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 one of our 2022 program alums here and here.

Currently, we are planning to have teachers working on-site at SERC at least 3 days per week. However, given the uncertainties and risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, these plans may change. We will also be willing to discuss individual circumstances and make accommodations on a case-by-case basis. 

We anticipate selecting 8 teachers as part of the Summer 2023 RET cohort. All accepted teachers must be classroom science teachers. We are prioritizing middle school teachers from Anne Arundel County 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 2023: 

  • 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).
  • 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 (June 28-August 9) occurring both remotely and on the SERC campus
    • 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. Therefore, we will give priority to applicants who are able to commit to being at the SERC campus at least 3 days per week between June 28 and August 9.
  • 1 week to finalize draft lesson plans and related content (August 9 -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 2023-2024 school year.
  • Priority given to teachers from Anne Arundel County 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 March 10. Applicants will be notified of decisions by March 30.

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 NSF portion of the form here. 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. 

Please reach out to Alison Cawood ( if you have any questions, to learn more about the program, or to discuss your specific circumstances.