Environmental Education Professional Certification

MAEOE Environmental Educator Certification is a ten month program for professional environmental educators. It was developed by MAEOE with accreditation from North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE), to accomplish the goal of improving environmental education training and materials for use in formal and informal education .

Why a voluntary certification program for environmental educators in Maryland?
• Most professions have a certification program.
• There is no environmental education degree program in Maryland.
• Environmental education is interdisciplinary. Educators need solid training in science, social studies, economics, education, etc.
• Environmental educators come from a variety of backgrounds. Few have training in both the content areas (science, social studies) and process areas (education, communication).
• The environmental education profession is often criticized for being unprofessional (i.e. not being scientifically accurate, not being educationally sound).
• High quality environmental education supports education reform goals and can positively impact school performance as seen by State Environment and Education Roundtable’s (SEER) “Environment as an Integrating Context” research and other studies.

The MAEOE certification is a competency based program where the applicant demonstrates what s/he knows and can do. The competencies come from NAAEE’s Guidelines for the Initial Preparation of Environmental Educators.The Guidelines are organized around six themes.

Environmental Literacy
Foundations of Environmental Education
Professional Responsibilities
Planning and Implementing Environmental Education
Fostering Learning
Assessment and Evaluation

Applicants will demonstrate these competencies by submitting documentation, such as lesson plans and video tapes of teaching techniques. Applicants should have at least 2 years of field experience before applying. There are scholarships available for those with demonstrated need. Veterans should inquire if this certification would qualify under the Veterans Education Assistance Act.

Environmental educators come from a wide variety of backgrounds. Few environmental educators have training in both the content areas such as science, geography, or social studies and in the pedagogical areas such as teaching styles, learning styles, or assessment. Many states have examined their environmental education programs and have realized their state EE efforts need to be strengthened from within. One approach is through certification.

Certification is not a new term. It has been around for a long time. If you are certified, you most likely hold a document certifying that you have met specified requirements, such as for teaching or accounting. However, there are many environmental educators that see the certification effort as a threat. Some frequently asked questions regarding the certification process, include: Why would anyone want to become certified? How can certification benefit me? What barriers to my career does certification pose? How long will it take? And, why would any state want to tackle this task?

There are many reasons why a state might offer an environmental education certification and why you would want to obtain it. Environmental education is not a professional field in which everyone receives the same or even similar training. Some environmental educators have a degree in education, some in natural science or resource management, some in social studies, and some do not have a degree. Some environmental educators work in the non-formal sector (museums, zoo, botanical gardens, etc.) while others find themselves working in the formal education setting. Yet all are environmental educators. When someone indicates that they are an environmental educator, individuals within our own field often wonder what is the background or training that this person brings to the table. Do they have a strong background in environmental issues, natural resource content, and/or educational issues? Can they define environmental literacy? Do they know why Tbilisi is important to the field of EE or the history of environmental education? Can they write a lesson plan, talk to educators about educational issues, or explain how EE can be used to enhance their state standards? By implementing a state EE certification program, these questions can be addressed, creating a baseline of knowledge and skills for people who complete the program. Therefore, if you have an EE Certification, then others know what you know and are able to do.

There are many other reasons why you might want to obtain your EE certification. First, professional recognition and growth — as you go through your state’s EE certification program, you should learn something new and challenge yourself. Once you complete the process, then others will recognize you as a leader in the field and respect you for your initiative and accomplishments. Next, upon completion of the EE certification program, you can be distinguished from other similar professions (classroom teachers, nature interpreters, etc.). You can say with pride that you are a professional environmental educator. Also, as you work toward your certification, you can build professional contacts, which can lead to new and exciting opportunities. You never know who might be looking for a new employee or might know someone that is looking for one. Finally, you may have the opportunity to work with other leaders in not only your state but also on a national level — once again, providing you with new opportunities.

There are many other issues associated with the EE certification process. However, one must remember that the intent of an EE Certification is not to criticize those in the field, but to encourage individual professional growth. Many environmental educators have indicated a desire for the environmental education profession to be respected as a profession. The implementation of a state environmental education certification program is one step toward obtaining that respect and moving environmental education to a higher professional level in the eyes of others. Remember, accountants, teachers, electricians, forklift operators, and financial planners all have a certification process. Why shouldn’t environmental education have one too?


For more information contact eecert@maeoe.org