The Research Experiences for Teachers in the Experimental Forests (RET-EF) program is a joint effort between the USDA Forest Service and the Hubbard Brook Research Foundation. The primary aim of the RET-EF program is to provide K–12 science teachers with sustained, hands-on experience in environmental science research. The program serves three major purposes:
- Teachers gain first-hand knowledge of the practice and process of science, including field methods and data collection.
- Teachers learn about current research related to their local or regional environment.
- Teachers develop new skills analyzing and manipulating scientific data.
- Teachers build networks with other science educators and scientists.
- Teachers gain access to real data sets, research topics, and methods that can be incorporated into their lessons.
- Teachers develop a new classroom or field activity that is based on local/regional environmental science; data-driven activities are encouraged.
- Experimental Forests become resources for teaching science process skills through the development of education materials made available on the world-wide web.
- Teachers communicate their experiences and new classroom activities at regional or national science teacher conferences, such as the New Hampshire Science Teachers’ Association (NHSTA).
- Teachers participate in Hubbard Brook scientist meetings and/or “science nights,” presenting their experiences and work to scientists and learning about how scientists communicate with each other.
- Mentor scientists gain a better understanding of current challenges in science teaching and practice.
Additionally, the RET-EF program supports participating scientists by providing them with summer research assistance and, at the same time, a mechanism to extend the broader impacts of their work. The RET-EF program aims to improve public awareness of environmental science research and the role of the USDA Experimental Forests.
Teachers are selected in the spring and paired with research teams that operate in the summer out of one of the Experimental Forests. During the summer break from school, teachers work 13–15 field days with the research teams and participate in 3 workshop days with Hubbard Brook Research Foundation education staff and scientists. During or after their field work, each teacher develops 1 classroom or field lesson based on their research experience. Use of real data is encouraged. The teachers will pilot and refine their lessons during the following school year. Final lessons are posted online at the Hubbard Brook website. Teachers are also asked to present their experiences and lessons at scientist meetings and science teacher conferences.