Frequently Asked Questions

Last updated: May 21, 2024


  • Educators:
    • The program works with faculty from community colleges and Minority Serving Institutions, middle and high school educators, as well as informal educators who can incorporate polar science education into their work.
    • Polar STEAM welcomes applications from educators across all subject areas.  Applications should demonstrate the candidate’s commitment to communicating science through the lens of their professional discipline.
  • Artists, writers and creative practitioners within various arts and humanities areas are welcome to apply (Antarctic only).   Academic credentials are not required.  Polar STEAM welcomes applications from working artists, writers, and creative practitioners in a variety of genres, from traditional to experimental.
  • Polar researchers associated with NSF-funded awards seeking to achieve broader impact goals through collaboration with educators, artists, and writers are welcome to apply.  Virtual and field collaborations are available. 

Educators need to be currently working with a defined group of learners to be eligible.  Though many Polar STEAM Fellows work in traditional classroom settings, informal educators are also welcome to apply.  In the application, please identify your group of learners and how you can integrate polar science with them.   

Polar STEAM is open to educators who are citizens and permanent residents of the United States.

Participants must be 21 years of age or older.  There is no upper age limit, however medical and dental care in remote field locations in the Arctic and Antarctic is limited and participants need to be physically capable of field work (see field deployment section below).

One of the goals of Polar STEAM is to broaden participation and engagement with polar research to new audiences and those traditionally underrepresented in polar sciences, therefore it is unlikely we will have repeat participants in the program. Applications from prior participants may be considered if the applicant can clearly demonstrate a novel approach or method that differs from their prior participation in the program.

Program FAQs

STEAM is an acronym that stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics.  It is a term commonly used in education and refers to an interdisciplinary approach that helps students expand their problem-solving and collaborative teamwork skills as they prepare to enter the workforce in an increasingly complex world. Polar STEAM invites participating educators, researchers, artists, and writers to engage the public by collaborating and employing principles of STEAM: curiosity, creativity, critical thinking, and cultural sensitivity.  

  • Polar STEAM is a U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) funded project run by an interdisciplinary team at Oregon State University (OSU).  OSU was awarded a cooperative agreement with the NSF in September 2022 and will facilitate virtual and field deployments for participants annually.  
  • Polar STEAM integrates two long-standing programs: the Polar Educators program and the Antarctic Artists & Writers program.
  • The NSF has supported educator collaborations with field scientists for many years through several projects such as Polar TREC funded through the Arctic Research Consortium of the US (ARCUS). 
  • The Antarctic Artists & Writers program began in the 1980’s and was previously directly administered by the NSF. 
  • Polar STEAM is inspired by the legacy of all these programs’ accomplishments and looks ahead to the opportunities for integrated collaborations by connecting the perspectives and work of creatives, educators, and researchers with Polar STEAM. 

The Polar STEAM Team is committed to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. We center DEI in a myriad of ways including: 

  • Recruiting participants with varied experience levels and backgrounds that reach a wide array of learners.  
  • Removing barriers to entry through a streamlined application process. 
  • Evaluating applications using equitable and transparent criteria that support our diversity goals. Application reviews are conducted by independent evaluators comprised of our Network of Experts. 
  • Focusing on STEAM to create multiple pathways for students and the public to engage with polar science. 
  • Building community and belonging through facilitated virtual engagement. 
  • Including additional training developed by nationally recognized experts to support participant social, psychological, and physical safety in field and virtual environments. 
  • Facilitating a virtual educator program to increase access for educators and researchers. 
  • Valuing educators, creatives and researchers, all called Fellows, as professionals on equal footing in the collaboration. 

Note: Please see the relevant sections below for educators, researchers, and artists & writers, for further program-specific information.

Polar STEAM provides facilitated matching and mentorship for each annual cohort of educators, artists & writers, and researchers. 

Professional Development curriculum is integrated into the Polar STEAM program for all participants.  Mentorship is provided in learning about STEAM integrations and in co-creating educational resources or artistic works. Through learning from national experts and looking through an interdisciplinary lens, all participants can build upon their professional practice.

For all deploying participants, the following is provided:  

  • Round-trip economy air travel between a U.S. airport and the port of embarkation for the field location. 
  • Travel between locations in the field during the award period.  
  • Travel expenses during transit including per diem, hotels, and meals.  
  • Room, board, and other logistical assistance while in the Polar regions or on a research vessel.  
  • Polar clothing (outerwear only) for use in the field.
  • Substitute teacher costs will be covered, if applicable.

Participants will receive the designation of Polar STEAM Fellow and become part of the Polar STEAM community. 

The time commitment is approximately 13 – 15 hours of cohort-based training over the year plus collaborative work within your partnership (see virtual or field sections below). 

Virtual Collaborations

There will be an annual cohort of participants, within which individual educators and researchers will be teamed up as collaborative partners.  Educators will collaborate virtually and researchers may be in the field, conducting lab-based or data work, or monitoring their field work remotely.  Polar STEAM will facilitate initial virtual meetings between participants and researchers to collaboratively develop the scope of their work.  Professional Development will focus on using an integrated approach to science communication in the polar regions and exploring the key principles of STEAM: curiosity, creativity, critical thinking, and cultural sensitivity.  As a culmination of their collaboration, the team will create and develop a new STEAM-focused educational resource. 

Each virtual collaboration is unique and depends on the nature of the collaboration between the research and educator.   During the collaboration period, the average time commitment is 4-8 hours per month, inclusive of the time for cohort-based training.

  • Virtual collaborations are a new element of the integrated Polar STEAM program, aligned with the program’s objectives to decrease barriers and increase access to polar research. 
  • Polar scientific research projects that did not previously lend themselves to field collaboration experiences can now work with an educator through Polar STEAM.  For example, lab-based researchers, a field team who monitors equipment remotely, or who visit a field site for short periods of time over a few months and conduct data analysis in the interim. 
  • Educators who, for a variety of reasons, are unable to be away for several weeks as part of a field experience can now apply to participate as a virtual collaborator.
  • The timeframe is not limited to the summer seasons in each polar region.  Exciting polar research projects take place during the winter months through remote monitoring and educators can collaborate virtually during their school year.

Field Collaborations

  • Physical activity varies with each field experience.  On one end of the spectrum, some participants live in tents in remote field locations in harsh environmental conditions for several days or weeks.  On another end of the spectrum, some participants sleep in a comfortable, heated dorm room every night.  
  • During the selection process, applicants will be asked to indicate the level of physical activity they are interested in and comfortable with for potential field deployment. 
  • Participants selected for deployment to the Antarctic must be deemed physically qualified by meeting medical standards set by the NSF in the six months before planned travel, including being up to date on required vaccinations.  Failure to meet medical and dental criteria results in disqualification, regardless of the merits of the application.  Participants who do not meet the medical or dental criteria may be offered a virtual experience.  More information about the PQ process is available on the NSF website.

Each field collaboration is unique and depends on the nature of the collaboration between the research and educator and the proposed field time. During the collaboration period, the average time commitment is 4-8 hours per month, inclusive of the time for cohort-based training.  The field collaboration is an immersive experience where your full day will be engaged with the field team.  In the application, educators can indicate their availability. 

The length of deployments depends on various factors.  Typical deployments range from 2 – 6 weeks.  Arctic deployments are typically between May – September.  Antarctic deployments are typically between October – February with a possible option for early season (August – September). 

  • We place educators in virtual and field-based collaborations.
  • Educators are named Fellows and are part of a yearlong cohort of researchers, educators, and artists that meet virtually. 
  • Field based expeditions are typically 1-6 weeks in length.
  • The Arctic field season typically runs from May through September. 
  • The Antarctic field season typically runs from October to February. 
  • Both locations can include land and/or ship-based opportunities. 
  • The majority of field deployments are in the Arctic. 
  • At this time deployments to Antarctic field stations are limited. Potential deployments to Antarctica may be limited to ship-based expeditions. Most Antarctica collaborations will be virtual. 
  • Some virtual collaborations might include a university or lab-based site visit or conference travel.

Yes, the Polar STEAM program can cover the cost of a substitute teacher or replacement for deploying educators.  This will be addressed on a case-by-case basis as it depends on several factors including the field deployment timeframe and the participant’s school or work schedule. 


  • Each round of applications will specify a deadline.  Late submissions will not be accepted.  Prospective applicants are strongly encouraged to submit applications in advance of the deadline to allow time for any technical difficulties that may occur in the submission process.
  • Visit the Program Application page for information about current applications.

No, applications are reviewed only after the deadline.  Submitting in advance of the deadline is advantageous only to ensure that applicants can resolve any technical difficulties with the submission process. 

For Educators and Artists & Writers, applications are reviewed by a panel selected from our Network of Experts and other experienced professionals.  Applications are evaluated based on their ability to embody the principles and goals of Polar STEAM as well as the ability to reach and serve groups who are historically underrepresented in polar science.  Many levels of professional experience are considered for educators, artists & writers, and researchers and the evaluation process is designed to be inclusive of professionals at various stages in their careers.  Applications from artists & writers are further evaluated on the ability to support the proposed project logistically.

Researcher applications are reviewed by Polar STEAM staff. The application package and broader impact goals are evaluated to determine if they align with Polar STEAM’s objectives and program capabilities.

We are committed to diversity, equity and inclusion in the Polar Sciences. Within the structure of our program and recruitment efforts we are looking for applicants that demonstrate ways in which they align with this commitment. Specifically, we are looking at diversity in three ways:

  • Participants representative of diverse communities
  • Participants who reach diverse groups and audiences with their work
  • Participants who are energized by developing culturally-responsive and inclusive practices into curriculum, scholarly or creative work while showing up for diversity in their practice.

For Educators and Artists & Writers, the review, selection, and matching process with research teams takes approximately 2-4 months.  Applicants who advance to the next stage will be contacted and invited to meet (virtually) with Polar STEAM staff and one or more research teams.  Finalists will also be asked to provide references and may contact your supervisor.

Applicants who are not successful will receive an email indicating their application has not moved forward.  Due to the volume of applications, Polar STEAM staff are unable to provide feedback to applicants.  Applicants are encouraged to carefully read all program information, stay connected by registering for updates, and consider re-applying in future years.  Collaborating researchers change year to year and an applicant’s proposal may be better matched in future years. 

For Researchers, expect to hear from the Polar STEAM team within 1 – 2 weeks to discuss how your research and broader impacts goals align with the Polar STEAM program’s objectives and capabilities.    

Educator FAQs

  • Virtual educators will receive a stipend of $500* upon successful completion of the program. 
  • Field-based educators will receive a stipend of $1,000* upon successful completion of the program. 
  • Substitute teacher costs during the educator’s absence from the classroom (if applicable). 
  • Polar STEAM also has funding for domestic program-related travel, such as visiting the collaborating researcher’s lab or attending relevant conferences to share their work.  Educators who have successfully completed their program may apply for these funds, with priority given to virtual educators.  
  • *Stipends are unrestricted and may be taxable. OSU and Polar STEAM cannot advise on tax implications. 

Yes.  A letter of support will be required for finalists during the selection process.  It is best to speak with your principal or supervisor before submitting an application. 

Some applicants find it easier to obtain administrator support for a virtual collaboration, as they generally do not require you to be absent from your classroom or place of employment for a long duration of time.  Virtual collaborations can also be a great opportunity to bring real-world polar research to your learners. 

Polar STEAM supports educator professional development by providing a certificate of completion, including contact hours, upon completion of the program.  Educators seeking to use this towards CEUs or certification are encouraged to check their individual state or school district’s requirements prior to participation in Polar STEAM.  Polar STEAM can assist with additional documentation as needed.  Educators may use the stipend toward the cost of CEU’s towards licensure renewals in their respective states. 

Researcher FAQs

Polar researchers across a wide spectrum of disciplines from social sciences to the physical sciences and mathematics who are working in polar locations and have, or are seeking, NSF funding are welcome to apply.  For specific questions, please reach out to the team at

  • Yes, Polar STEAM works with researchers funded through the U.S. National Science Foundation.  The research focus will be in the polar regions, though funding may be through the Office of Polar Programs or other NSF programs. 
  • Researchers who submit applications should have an active NSF award, received the notice of award, or be in the final stages of securing funding.   

There is no cost to researchers to participate in Polar STEAM. 

  • Polar STEAM provides facilitated matching and mentorship for each annual cohort of educators, artists & writers, and researchers.  
  • Polar STEAM’s professional development training will include specific modules conducted by national experts on broader impacts planning and advancement, collaboration skills and practice, and STEAM focused resource development. 
  • The Polar STEAM website will feature the collaborative team and individual profiles along with the educational, artistic, and writing resources developed through the collaboration. This can be used to showcase your broader impacts work. 
  • Researchers may have the opportunity to present their collaborative work at a conference together with the educator, artist or writer collaborative partner.  
  • Researchers will receive the designation of Polar STEAM Fellow. 

Polar STEAM is funded as a cooperative agreement through the U.S. National Science Foundation, Award #2221990, and as such is unable to provide letters of collaboration or support for individual grant proposals. Researchers may include their intent to seek collaborations with Polar STEAM in proposals to the NSF. Research teams should avoid proposal language that leads reviewers to believe that a specific collaborative outcome with Polar STEAM is negotiated. Polar STEAM is committed to building community and collaborating across the Polar research community.  Please do reach out so we can be aware of your intention to seek collaborations [email protected].

Researchers may use a version of the following statement in proposals, to indicate why a letter of support is not attached. “We intend to seek collaboration with Polar STEAM in support of the broader impacts outlined in this proposal. Polar STEAM is an NSF-funded cooperative agreement, and as such is unable to provide a letter of collaboration or support.” 

Artist and Writer FAQs

In addition to the FAQs below, see also the July 2023 informational webinar recording and additional answers to questions asked during the webinar on the application page. 

  • Stipend of $2,000 upon successful completion of the program.  Stipends are unrestricted and may be taxable. OSU and Polar STEAM cannot advise on tax implications. 
  • Facilitated mentorship and support during and following the award period. 
  • Participation in the annual Polar STEAM cohort and post-deployment summit (see above) 
  • Participation in the following season’s initial annual cohort meeting 
  • One of the two following options: 
    • Three ~75-minute public engagements, either external or internal to Polar STEAM. Selected participants will propose a list of engagements, which could be master classes, classroom visits, or process talks. 
    • A developed project created in collaboration with an educator. 
  • Citation of Polar STEAM and NSF support in published and shown works, when appropriate to the medium and allowed by the presenter. 

There are two possibilities for Artists & Writers’ field time in Antarctica: (1) to be embedded with a science team, or (2) to conduct their work independently in Antarctica. Depending on the nature of the artist or writer’s proposed work, there are advantages to either scenario.  

In the first scenario, being embedded with a science team would involve daily collaboration and work together during the field season, with collaboration time pre-and post- season as well. In the second scenario, the artist or writer would still be in the Antarctic environment and interact with some science teams and people living and working at Antarctic research stations. 

In the application, it is ok to indicate your preference, however it is not required. The Polar STEAM facilitated matching process will assist in negotiating this during the semi-finalist stage. The list of collaborating researchers is not available during the application phase for Artists & Writers.  

The Artist & Writer participant owns the copyright to the material produced. 

Polar STEAM welcomes applications from working artists, writers, and creative practitioners in a variety of genres, from traditional to experimental.  Examples of previous creative work and collaborations can be enjoyed in the online exhibition Adequate Earth produced by the Antarctic Artists and Writers Collective.  Though these are representative of past projects, Polar STEAM encourages potential applicants to consider new and innovative artistic approaches in preparing their application.  Polar STEAM is unable to support projects that propose a permanent installation in the Antarctic or performance-based works that occur only during the residency. 

  • Protection of the Antarctic environment is a fundamental consideration in all activities in Antarctica as described in the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty.  To this end, projects should be planned to limit adverse impacts on the Antarctic environment.  The U.S. Antarctic Conservation Act (ACA) requires an environmental impact assessment (EIA) in advance of all U.S. Antarctic Program activities, including those in the AAW program.  Permits may be required for some AAW projects.  For further information, review the resources below and contact the Polar STEAM Program office if you have further questions. 
  • For more information about U.S. Environmental Stewardship, see 
  • For more information about the ACA and permits, see 
  • Applications to employ unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, require a separate review of the application to ensure that the proposed use meets NSF’s safety and environmental guidelines.   
  • Any use of drones as part of an Artist & Writer’s deployment should, at minimum, clearly indicate why this is necessary to achieve the proposed work in Antarctica and contain documentation of the training and experience of the person or persons who will be designated as the operator of the aircraft. 
  • Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) and Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA), regardless of size, weight or form, are all subject to approval by NSF prior to use in the USAP. 

All diving under NSF auspices in Antarctica requires prior approval from the NSF.  Artists & Writers award recipients have been granted permission to dive, but this does not occur frequently.  The USAP Participant Guide outlines strict diving qualifications and requirements, and these should be carefully considered before proposing to dive in Antarctica.  Requirements include submitting a dive plan and having it reviewed.  There must be a strong justification that diving is necessary.