I know that it seems as if summer 2011 is forever away. But it’s never too early to start thinking about how you’re going to spend your time next year.

And I know that the summer months are the only time you have to recover and repair. So take some time off but don’t be afraid to look for free learning opportunities.

A couple of organizations have already opened up applications for awesome summer social studies workshops and seminars:

The Gilder Lehrman Institute has tons of online primary sources but also offers incredible one-week summer seminars led by well-known historians. You get free room, board and books along with a travel stipend (usually $400). Applications are due in February for sessions in five different historical periods:

A couple of specific examples would be:

  • North American Slavery
    University of Maryland
    Ira Berlin
  • Reconstruction
    Columbia University
    Eric Foner
  • The Great Plains: America’s Crossroads
    University of Colorado, Boulder
    Elliott West

The National Endowment for the Humanities also offers some great summer opportunities. One group of workshops focuses on specific locations or topics. Called the Landmarks of American History and Culture Workshops, these are week-long sessions usually at a national park or historical museum and:

give participants direct experiences in the interpretation of significant historical and cultural sites and the use of archival and other primary evidence.

You’ll receive a $1200 stipend to attend such workshops as:

  • The American Revolution on the Northern Frontier: Fort Ticonderoga and the Road to Saratoga
    Ticonderoga, NY
    Fort Ticonderoga National Historic Landmark; Lake Champlain Maritime Museum; Saratoga National Historical Park
  • Pearl Harbor: History and Memory Across Asia and the Pacific
    Honolulu, HI
    Pearl Harbor; USS Arizona Memorial; Battleship Missouri Memorial; National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific; the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii

The NEH also offers longer (two to six week) sessions with stipends up to $4500 on topics such as:

  • The Dutch Republic and Britain: The Making of Modern Society and a European World Economy
    London, UK and The Netherlands
    Gerard M. Koot, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth
  • Envisioning America in Maps and Art
    Chicago, IL
    James Akerman and Diane Dillon, Newberry Library

All of these sessions are free. All help pay you for travel expenses. All encourage high-levels of conversation with other educators and historians. All help you be a better teacher.

Whadda ya waiting for?