Founded in 2002, the Transatlantic Outreach Program (TOP) is a public/private partnership that provides curriculum and study tour experiences relevant to contemporary Germany for specific multiplier groups in North America, including social studies educators, STEM educators, and workforce development professionals interested in the German apprenticeship model.
The current partners of the Transatlantic Outreach Program include the Foreign Office of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Goethe-Institut, Deutsche Bank AG, and Siemens AG. The Robert Bosch Stiftung was a partner from 2005 until 2021.
With a full-time project staff of three, the core competencies of TOP include public/private project management and the implementation of custom-designed study tours and virtual tours to satisfy the learning objectives of specific multiplier groups. Additionally, TOP is a producer of unique teaching materials and instructional guides for social studies and STEM educators. These teaching materials are not only designed using the most-up-date pedagogical standards for learning, such as the Inquiry Design Model (IDM), but also serve as best practice examples of facilitating intercultural education in North American classrooms. These teaching materials 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 the College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards.
The TOP study tours are designed to address specific learning objectives. For example, the study tours for social studies educators focus on such topics as the legacy of the Holocaust, contemporary Holocaust education, remembrance culture, Cold War and post-Cold War history, peaceful protest movements, demographic diversity, the Eurozone, migration and integration, national identity, education policy, democracy education, media literacy, and more. The study tours for STEM educators focus on such topics as German energy policy, renewable energy sources, biodiversity, ecology, biomimicry, environmental education, sustainable living, and more. Finally, the study tours for workforce development professional focus on such topics as skills assessment, career guidance, the interconnection of federal, state, and local workforce policies, internships, apprenticeships, the role of trade unions, the role of chambers of commerce, Industry 4.0, skills evaluation and certification, and much more. Starting in 2020, TOP pioneered virtual study tours in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Additional competencies include fostering grass roots program growth, social media outreach, teacher-training professional development seminars, and alumni network engagement. TOP has built a database for its alumni network of over 1,700 former study tour participants from throughout the U.S. and Canada with representatives from each U.S. state and each major city. 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 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).
Approximately 50% of TOP study tour alumni teach in federally designated TITLE I schools. Since 2017, TOP has regularly convened a rotating panel of diverse program alumni representing several minority groups. Many ideas generated by this panel have helped TOP foster more inclusive policies as the program strives to improve racial equity and diversity among its study tour applicant pool, study tour participants, alumni network, and curriculum authorship.
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.”