Spend two weeks in Washington, DC, working with education and STEAM experts to explore the connections between informal STEAM education and authentic learning. Propose and develop goals for your own professional development, gain the skills to incorporate museum learning into your practice, and meet colleagues from around the country. There is no cost for teachers to participate and most expenses are paid by the Museum.

The National Air and Space Museum's Teacher Innovator Institute (TII) will welcome up to 30 teachers from across the United States in Summer 2023. Teachers will remain with the program for two summers, returning to Washington, DC, in year two to reconnect, develop their practice, and mentor the newest class of Teacher Innovators.

Want to know what teachers do all day? See a sample TII schedule.


TII Teachers accepted in 2023 will be onsite in Washington, DC July 10-21, 2023 and July 15-26, 2024

Who Should Apply

Middle School (grades 5-8) STEAM teachers who have an interest in expanding their practice to include informal education techniques. Ideal candidates are classroom teachers who plan on teaching for several years after TII. Efforts will be made to enroll a cohort that supports a diverse, equitable, and inclusive learning environment. Early career educators, educators of color, LGBTQ+ educators, educators with disabilities, and educators working in the public sector, particularly Title I schools, are strongly encouraged to apply.

If you have any questions about the program or your eligibility, contact us.

Teachers Will Learn

During their time in Washington, DC, and during the school year, teachers will focus on authentic learning, including the incorporation of real-world problems, open-ended inquiry, and hands-on, student-driven practices. Cohort members will work to define the term as it relates to their practice and design content around it as they progress through the program. 

Through hands-on activities, museum tours, visits to other museums, group work, and expertise from museum educators and content experts, teachers will use aerospace science, history, and technology to shape their ideas about authentic learning and bring informal education techniques into their classrooms. 

As a part of the application process, teachers will be asked to propose a plan for development of their practice, both as professionals and as a member of their school community.

We Provide

  • There is no cost for teachers to participate. Teachers are provided with lodging, food, and travel.
  • During the institute, teachers will be given special museum experiences and access to content experts in both informal education and aerospace content.
  • Participants will also have opportunities to connect with their cohort and museum staff several times during the school year.

Expectations for Participants

  • Commit to two weeks each summer for two consecutive summers.
  • Collaborate with other TII teachers to develop and iterate upon your proposed plan. 
  • Actively participate in sessions led by Smithsonian Institution staff and guests on the marriage of informal and formal learning. 
  • Assist in the evaluation of and iteration upon current educational programming at the National Air and Space Museum. 

Teachers participate in the TII.

Teachers participate in the TII. 

Teachers participate in the TII. 

How to Apply

The TII application will remain open until 11:59pm EST on February 15, 2023. Applications will be reviewed and all candidates will be notified by April 15, 2023.  

The application form will ask for basic contact and school information, as well as several documents. You cannot save your information and come back to it later, so please be prepared to submit a completed application. Preview the application questions.

Please submit the following via the application form:

  • Administrator sign-off on participation in the Institute. You may use the following form or have your admin write a letter of support: TII Administrator Sign Off
  • Two recommendation letters. Letters should address your role as an innovator in your teaching practice and other qualities that make you stand out.
    • Letter of recommendation from a peer.  
    • Letter of recommendation from a member of your community. This can be a student, parent, community member or leader in your district.
  • Professional Goals Statement
    • While TII events typically take place over the course of two summers, our objective is to develop lasting outcomes for our participants, the students they serve, and the communities they call home. No two educators are alike, and no two learning environments are the same, so it only makes sense to ask our TII applicants: How do YOU want to make an impact as an Innovator? 
    • If selected for TII, you will create your personal professional development plan based on your goals as a STEAM educator. We want you to consider your current goals and share why you wish to pursue them in the years ahead. Please use the provided template. During your first summer, you will refine your goals and add action items for the upcoming school year.  
  • Link to a video (no more than 3 minutes) introducing yourself and your community. Please talk about the following:
    • Your educational philosophy. Why do you do what you do?
    • Your community: The people, the surroundings, your school. What makes it special to you? How does your identity impact your relationship to your community?
    • You may use YouTube (listed or unlisted), Dropbox, or Google Drive. YouTube is strongly preferred. Please be sure to check the link before submission to be sure the privacy/sharing settings will allow us to see the video. 
    • Watch this video for application tips.

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Questions about how the information you submit will be used? Contact us

Frequently Asked Questions

I teach grades other than 5-8. Can I still apply?
Yes. Our past cohorts serve students in grades PK-12 and beyond. We do prioritize middle school teachers when reviewing and selecting candidates, but if you fulfill the other criteria, we welcome your application.

I am not a classroom teacher. Can I still apply?
Maybe. The focus of the Teacher Innovator Institute is supporting and uplifting classroom teachers, and through them, their students. Folks working in public libraries, museums, and other non-profit organizations may fulfill some of the criteria for application, but would need to demonstrate continued impact on students to be considered. Educators who own educational non-profits are not eligible to apply. 

I don’t teach Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math. Can I still apply?
Maybe. You don’t have to teach ALL of the subjects in STEAM to be considered. We have lots of current cohort members who just teach one of the STEAM disciplines, or who teach a STEAM discipline in addition to others. Those folks are often great candidates, especially if they work to include STEAM disciplines into the other parts of their curriculum. Folks who don’t teach any of the STEAM disciplines are not our target audience for this program. 

Can educators outside the US apply?
No. TII is focused on teachers in the US and its territories for the time being. The only exception is for US teachers teaching abroad with programs like DoDEA. 

Can I submit more than two letters of recommendation?
No. Though we love to hear that many colleagues and community members want to say great things, please choose your two strongest letters of recommendation for submission, following the guidelines of one peer and one community recommendation.