Environmental education: Certification program isn’t just for classroom teachers

By Chandler Holland
Times-News correspondent 

Chandler Holland, left, is a docent in the Discover Room at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences. Her hours there count toward her earning her N.C. Environmental Educator Certification. Michael Holland / Special to the Times-News

Did you know that our state offers a nationally recognized program that provides certification in EE or environmental education? To date, the N.C. Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs has certified more than 1,000 participants. Environmental Education focuses on outdoor teaching skills and methods, and developing science and nature curriculum, to help people understand how humans and the environment are intertwined.
EE programs take place in the classroom, and in outdoor non-formal settings including nature centers, parks, and museums. Both in and out of the classroom, the desired outcome of this program is to increase environmental literacy. This is accomplished by providing practice in environmental education teaching methods and fostering community leadership.
Just a few of the benefits listed on the EE Certification website include: exploring the state, helping your community, meeting amazing people, getting outdoors and close to nature, and experiencing interesting workshops — from sea turtles to bats to tree identification. In addition, if one is already a teacher, they can include professional recognition, networking opportunities with other environmental educators, and the ability to earn continuing education credits while advancing their career. Finding newly discovered “classrooms” from nature centers to landfills, and gaining a widely recognized professional credential, are included in the rewards you will reap if you pursue EE certification.
To get started, candidates 18 years of age and older register online and pay a $50 enrollment fee. You have four years to complete this self-paced, experiential program, with requirements that include passing the following five milestones:
   Criteria I is Approved Instructional Workshops. These teach-the-teachers workshops provide environmental educators with the information and tools needed to provide exceptional learning experiences to both children and adults in a wide variety of settings. They go way beyond mere content, and focus on methodology and resources.
Criteria II is Outdoor Instructor-led Experiences. To complete this criterion, participants engage in learning experiences that take place outdoors such as guided field trips and hikes.
Criteria III is Knowledge of Environmental Education Resources and Facilities. While completing this requirement, participants increase their knowledge of statewide resources by visiting various Environmental Education Centers and enrolling in EE-related workshops, seminars and programs.
Teaching Experiences are the focus of Criteria IV. Participants demonstrate their EE teaching ability through activities that provide hands-on, outdoor and interactive experiences for their students.
To complete the program requirement for Criteria V, participants design, lead and complete a Community Partnership Project. As stated on the NC EE website, these projects “Provide candidates with the opportunity to lead a partnership that will have a positive and lasting effect on the community and that will increase environmental awareness and understanding.”
Participants who complete the program receive a certificate signed by the Governor, the Chairman of the N.C. State Board of Education, and the Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Once certification is earned, educators are required to participate in continuing education in order to maintain their active status.
EE Certification benefits our community and contributes to the future of North Carolina’s environment. For more information, to view EE jobs available across our state, or to register and begin your own journey toward EE certification, visit www.EEnorthcarolina.org.

Chandler Holland is a senior home-schooler and a Teens & 20s writer. She will be completing the NC EE certification program during her gap year. Chandler was lead intern at C’est si Bon! Cooking School and co-teaches the Alamance Arts Kitchen Capers program.

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