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Geoscience Teaching Outdoors in NC (GET OUTdoors in NC) is a free, year-long teacher fellowship designed to engage middle and high school STEM teachers in hands-on, inquiry-based activities to support student learning about earth and environmental science.

A PhD student shows a sediment sample to two educators while standing in a pond.

Through field experiences, classroom-based activities and webinars, participants:

  • investigate climate impacts on eastern NC ecosystems and communities;
  • explore new technologies and engineering practices used to develop solutions to these challenges,
  • interact with geoscience researchers, industry professionals and environmental educators; and
  • discover new ways to incorporate current science content into their classrooms.

“The access to local research scientists is one of the best parts of this program!” – 2021-22 Participant

This program is offered by the UNC-Chapel Hill Institute for the Environment’s Center for Public Engagement with Science in partnership with the NC Museum of Natural Sciences at Greenville and Contentnea Creek, North Carolina State Parks, and Martin County Schools.

Our goal is to help teachers spark diverse students’ interest in geoscience career pathways by incorporating authentic, real-world and field-based experiences in their teaching.

Teachers gain first-hand experience outdoors in the natural systems of eastern North Carolina as they participate in activities designed to boost knowledge of and confidence in using inquiry and place-based approaches to support student learning of earth/environmental science concepts.

Participating teachers are encouraged to develop a geo-STEM lesson plan that incorporates outdoor instruction
and pilot it with high school youth during the academic year.

Content and activities are aligned with the NC Essential Standards for Earth/Environmental Science, 6th-8th grade Science and AP Environmental Science and integrate science and engineering practices outlined in the Next Generation Science Standards.

“I was supported to take risks and feel very comfortable with the group! This makes learning FUN and inspires me to give my students similar experiences.” — 2021-22 Participant

In the News

The Sediment Scientist (August 19, 2022)
Anne Smiley maps coastal habitats and nitrogen levels to assess water quality and coastal ecosystem health, protecting communities hit by major storms.

Bringing Classroom Learning to Life (August 6, 2021)
A new UNC Institute for the Environment program provides teachers with hands-on geoscience learning opportunities so they can replicate some of that experience in their classrooms.

UNC Institute for the Environment makes hands-on geoscience learning possible for North Carolina students and teachers (January 5, 2021)
Geoscience Teaching Outdoors in NC, also known as GET Outdoors in NC, will help teachers mentor students and encourage their interest in pursuing careers in fields like water quality, watershed management, geology and renewable energy.

collecting soil samples

Program Components

Each GET Outdoors in NC teacher participates in the following activities:

Summer Institute

June 21-23, 2022
NC Museum of Natural Sciences at Contentnea Creek &
Goose Creek State Park
Meals and lodging provided.

Weekend Retreats

Participants are required to attend at least one weekend science immersion experience, and are welcome to attend both. Meals and lodging provided.

  • Fall Retreat: October 22-23, 2022
    Martin County Schools Innovation Campus, Williamston, NC
    Roanoke River National Wildlife Refuge & Pettigrew State Park
  • Spring Retreat: March 18-19, 2023
    UNC Outer Banks Field Site, Coastal Studies Institute, Manteo, NC
    Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge & Jockey’s Ridge State Park

Online Professional Learning Community

Teachers will be expected to actively participate in an online professional learning community with at least 3 virtual meetings per year to support classroom application of program resources and materials and offer peer support in incorporating program experiences into instruction.

Celebration of Geo-STEM Learning

Spring 2023, date TBD

GET Outdoors in NC teachers receive:

  • Authentic experiential learning opportunities designed to enrich knowledge of eastern North Carolina’s ecosystems, geography, and environmental history and enhance skills in using the outdoors for instruction.
  • Exposure to current geoscience issues and careers through interaction with research scientists, industry professionals and nonformal environmental educators.
  • Access to a peer learning network and current science content related to climate impacts and solutions.
  • Resources to support classroom integration of content and hands-on STEM investigations.
  • A stipend of up to $325 awarded on completion of key program components.
  • Continuing Education Unit (CEU) credits and credit in the N.C. Environmental Education Certification Program offered through the N.C. Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs.

“I greatly appreciated the ideas, activities, connections, research and data to share with my students.”2021-22 Participant


Open to middle or high school public, private or charter school STEM teachers in North Carolina. Should the application process become competitive, priority given to teachers currently teaching at schools in eastern NC, particularly State Board of Education’s Northeast District 1 and teachers in Tier 1 counties. Teams of teachers are welcome to apply from an individual school.

Health and Safety Precautions

All in-person program components will follow current University, state and federal health guidelines. If these are in conflict, we will follow the most health protective guidelines. Please note that in-person programs are subject to change, rescheduling or cancellation depending on COVID-19 restrictions. 

To Apply

The application period for the 2022-23 cohort is now closed.


Sarah Yelton, GET Outdoors in NC Program Manager
UNC Institute for the Environment

GET Outdoors in NC is led by PI Dr. Kathleen Gray, Research Associate Professor in the UNC Institute for the Environment, and co-PI Dr. Mike Piehler, Director of the UNC Institute for the Environment and Professor in the UNC Institute of Marine Sciences.

GET Outdoors in NC is funded with support from the National Science Foundation (NSF) GEOPAths program (Grant # ICER-2023173).