Certification - "Why do we need
in it for me?" Brenda Weiser, Ed.D., Environmental
Institute of Houston/UHCL
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
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?
are many reasons why a state might offer an environmental education
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
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 several ways a state can approach
- One way can be classified as experiential. Through
this process, one would participate in workshops, attend presentations,
or visit leading environmental centers or parks. During this time,
the individual would record what they did and the number of hours attended.
- A potential certified individual may
also attend multi, day-long classes.
- A different approach would be based
on specific criteria. With this approach, a state would establish
specific criteria that would be achieved through written assignments, tests,
video recordings, or the submission of documents such as lesson plans.
- In addition, a certified EE candidate
may need to work with a mentor.
A variety of approaches may be taken
by a state to implement an EE certification program. In fact, a state
might use a combination of the different approaches – attending workshops
yet meeting established criteria while working with a mentor. Thus,
obtaining a certification can vary from one approach to another depending
on the state and what approach best fits that state.
How long will it take? This will
depend on your state’s program and you. Most state programs are a series
of steps that applicants pursue at their own pace over a period of time.
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 that the environmental education profession
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?