Where Curiosity Thrives

Diver reading book
OSU scientist Dr. Andrew Thurber dives under the sea ice at McMurdo Station, Antarctica during a book launch event for Choose Your Own Adventure: Antarctica, a novel written by AAW Lily Simonson.

Education. Art. Science.

Polar STEAM, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math, is an NSF-funded project that integrates and enhances two long-standing U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) programs: the Polar Educators program and the Antarctic Artists and Writers program and facilitates virtual and deployment collaborations with scientists conducting research in the polar regions. Joining the programs creates new opportunities to connect the perspectives and work of creatives, educators, and researchers in some of the most interesting, vulnerable, and critical ecosystems on the planet. Expanding participation in the program to include faculty from community colleges and Minority Serving Institutions and virtual educator participants will allow both programs to reach new audiences and better engage the next generation of researchers and science learners.

Our Approach

Polar STEAM is an NSF-funded project run by an interdisciplinary team at Oregon State University.  Participants are supported in their creative, scientific, and educational practices as they develop and share creative works and educational resources that engage learners of all ages in understanding the critical global importance of polar environments and the people who call these regions home.  Polar STEAM is an inclusive program that views our differences with curiosity and invests in diversity.  

Aurora over Black Island in Antarctica
© Anthony Powell, AAW 2007, The Aurora Australis and Milky Way visible over Black Island, Antarctica.
People loading a snow machine
© Anthony Powell, AAW 2007, A field research team loads equipment in the shadow of Mount Erebus, Antarctica.

Virtual and Field Experiences

Polar STEAM makes the isolated, extreme polar regions and the science conducted in those regions accessible to educators, artists, and writers so that they can, in turn, share the polar regions with the broader public through their teaching, art, and written word.  Virtual and deployment options are available, see the FAQ page for more information.

Inclusive and Diverse

Integrating the programs goes hand-in-hand with enhancing outreach and accessibility for educator and artist participants by forging connections with communities not historically served by art-science and educator-science programs.  Polar STEAM also aims to expand the roster of collaborating researchers to elevate new voices historically underrepresented in polar sciences within the integrated approach to science communication in the polar regions made possible when creatives, educators, and researchers work together. 

People walking
© Shaun O’Boyle, AAW 2015, 2017, 2019, A field team hikes above a glacial valley in the far north archipelago of Svalbard.
Lily Simonson art
Lily Simonson, “Cinder Cones Seep, McMurdo Sound” (2018). Acrylic on canvas. 60″ x 84″.

Public Engagement

Polar STEAM is not just a national program but a journey for all of us to get closer to what is so physically distant, to understand the Polar regions and its people as community, and to commit to sharing what we learn with the world so others too can let their curiosity thrive.

As part of OSU’s commitment to Polar STEAM, PRAx, the Patricia Valian Reser Center for the Creative Arts will curate a major exhibition – as well as related performances – related to polar regions in the 2026-27 season. Sign up for updates about this and other public engagement events.

Interested in learning more?

Sign up to receive updates about program applications and public events.

© Anthony Powell, AAW 2007, A curious Adelie penguin takes an extreme close-up near Cape Royds, Antarctica.