Since the early 1960’s the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS) has provided high quality research training to graduate students in tropical ecology. This has resulted in the development of a significant cadre of senior researchers and professors at research institutions who have the expertise and experience in field-oriented research in the tropics to pass on to their like-minded students. In the mid-1990s, OTS has expanded its programming to include undergraduates, introducing tropical ecology to an increasingly larger group of students with the expectation that many of them would become the next generation of graduate students and researchers in tropical studies. In 2002, OTS began a program of service training to high school science teachers. This program was created to promote the teaching of field-oriented science, to enhance and expand upon nationally created standards in science teaching, and to influence students in the importance of field-oriented, hands-on research in the tropics.
The OTS Research Experience for Teachers (RET) program, sponsored by U.S. National Science Foundation, is one component of OTS’ in-service training program for teachers. A course for high school teachers also takes place each summer. (For further information on the teachers’ course, please see the OTS website.) The RET program is designed for high school science teachers who rarely have the opportunity to pursue their own individual research interests. The RET program provides one to two teachers each summer with the opportunity to conduct mentored research at the world-renowned La Selva Biological Station in the Caribbean lowland rain forest of Costa Rica. There, selected teachers will work beside researchers and students at the station, including students who have NSF research experience for undergraduate (REU) fellowships.
The Components of the RET Program
The RET program consists of four components: 1) a research project carried out by the participant under the supervision of the REU Coordinator, 2) participant involvement in activities and seminars designed for the REU program, 3) a seminar by the participant on integrating the research undertaken at the station into the participant’s classroom, 3) a follow-up report by the participant describing the subsequent successes/difficulties in the actual implementation.
- The research project. Each participant will submit a proposal outlining the research project they will undertake during a three-week period in July 2010. The proposal must include a description of the research, the hypotheses to be tested, methods to be used, and citations of appropriate literature. The proposal will be evaluated in terms of the scientific content, the feasibility of the project, and the appropriateness of the project to its application in a secondary classroom.
- Seminars and Activities. The RET participant will participate in all planned activities and seminars designed for the REU (Research Experience for Undergraduate) students staying at the station. The RET participant will be integrated into the REU program throughout his or her stay at the station and will be expected to be a willing and active collaborator in all programs.
- The integration seminar. At the end of the research period, the participant will meet with the coordinator, REU students and researchers at La Selva to discuss the results of their research experiences. During the seminar, the participant will prepare and present a report on the results of his or her research project. The reports will be oral (given to the group) as well as prepared for dissemination, either as a written publication or as a web page. The participant also will focus on how the research project can be integrated into his or her classroom. The participant will prepare a plan, explaining in detail the methods, materials, and expected outcomes of the program.
- The follow-up report. During the subsequent academic year, the participant will share and discuss the results of his or her implementation program. A component of the report will be a formal evaluation of the program, assessing the value of the both the research experience per se, as well as the impact of the program on classroom activities.
RET Fellowship Benefits
The Research Experiences for Teachers fellowship runs from June 20 through July 24, 2010 and provides the following benefits:
- Stipend of $800 per week for five weeks.
- International roundtrip travel to and from Costa Rica.
- Local travel in Costa Rica to get to and from La Selva.
- Room and board at La Selva.
- Subsistence at other locations, as necessary.
- Research materials
- Research permit
The RET Application Process
Interested teachers should send their CVs and a one- to two-page proposal outlining the research project they would like to undertake at the La Selva Biological Station.
CVs and proposals should be sent electronically to: All materials should be submitted by March 15, 2010.
Organization for Tropical Studies
jgiles @ duke.edu