Initiated in 2002 by Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger, the Transatlantic Outreach Program (TOP) is a public/private partnership that seeks to be a leading provider of curriculum and study tour experiences relevant to contemporary Germany for specific multiplier groups in North America, specifically social studies educators, STEM educators, and decision makers.
The partners of the Transatlantic Outreach Program include the Foreign Office of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Goethe-Institut, Deutsche Bank, the Robert Bosch Stiftung, and the Siemens Corporation.
With a full-time project staff of three, the core competencies of TOP include public/private project management, custom-designed study tour programs to address the specific needs of specific audiences, and the in-house production of curriculum and instructional guides for K-12 social studies and STEM educators. These include printed instructional guides, online multimedia products, and short films. All TOP teaching materials are made relevant to K-12 classroom instruction through their alignment to national content standards such as Common Core, NCSS National Standards for Social Studies, NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards), and others.
The core focus groups of TOP are social studies and STEM educators in the U.S. and Canada. In addition to implementing TOP curriculum in the classroom, educators are encouraged to apply for one of several custom-designed study tour programs offered by TOP annually. These study tours are designed to address the specific interests of educators, focusing on such topics as the legacy of the Holocaust, contemporary Holocaust education, collective memory, Cold War and post-Cold War history, peaceful protest movements, energy policy, demographic diversity, the Eurozone, migration and integration, national identity, vocational education, education policy, and much more.
Additional competencies include fostering grass roots growth, social media outreach, teacher-training professional development seminars, and alumni network management. TOP has built a database for its alumni network of over 1,200 former study tour participants from throughout the U.S. and Canada with representatives from each U.S. state and each major city. Using data modelling and heat maps, TOP has identified geographic regions that have heretofore been underserved by the grassroots growth of the program. The TOP Network of Trainer Specialists (TNTS) was formed by selecting the best ambassador-trainers from its alumni network who are empowered by TOP to conduct professional development seminars in these underrepresented areas. In addition to this trainer network, TOP seeks to engage its alumni through lecture series, events, social media, mini grants, competitions, and more. In keeping with the desire to promote TOP as a program "for North American educators by North American educators" TOP also seeks to utilize the talent of its alumni as consultants and subject matter experts. TOP is also a presenting and exhibiting organization at leading national educator conferences such as those hosted by the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS), the Council for Economics Education (CEE), and the National Science Teacher Association (NSTA).
In 2013, the program’s focus was expanded to include K-12 STEM educators. To bridge the chasm between the STEM classroom and STEM careers, TOP has been working with a vast array of partners at the highest levels of U.S. federal, state, and city governments as well as industry and education leaders on both sides of the Atlantic to promote awareness of Germany’s world-class vocational education system. An information tour is offered annually to these decision makers.
In 2012, an external evaluation of the Transatlantic Outreach Program found “strong evidence that TOP positively impacts students’ knowledge, impressions, and interest in Germany and Germans. Compared to their peers who have not been exposed to Modern Germany lessons, TOP students in this study know consistently more about Germany and have more positive and less negative impressions of Germans. They also perceive greater similarity between Germany and the U.S. than comparison students and are more interested in learning more about Germany and Germans.”