Read Environmental Educator (K-12) text version

Environmental Educator (K-12)

Environmental Educators work everyday to teach all people about the wonders of the natural world, how to protect it, and give students an appreciation for the environment. Many times the sciences such as biology, chemistry, and physics ignore the connections they share with each other and their applications to natural world. Environmental Educators work to show students how these sciences are all connected and apply in class learning to the world around them. While K-12 teachers might try to incorporate environmental education into aspects of their class, specific Environmental Educators get to do this everyday. Much of the time typical K-12 educators must divide their teaching across a very broad range of topics and thus are unable to become experts on environmental issues and how to teach students about them. Environmental Educators step in to fill this need and teachers tend to organizer field trips to bring their students to these people. Outside of the parks, many school districts across the nation are beginning to understand the importance of environmental education. Especially at the high school level, school boards are hiring teachers to teach only environmental sciences. The environment they are working within largely determines an Environmental Educator's job. For example, an educator at a wetlands park will teach students about how the wetlands naturally filters rain water and runoff so that it is fit for consumption while an educator at a deciduous forest park will teach students about photosynthesis. That is not to say that certain environmental topics are excluded if they do not exist at your location but Environmental Educators try to use the world around them to teach students this interdisciplinary field. These educators at parks and nonprofits, while not as much in school districts, also enjoy a tremendous amount of freedom to teach what they feel is important in the manner they think is the most effective. As the Environmental Educator is teaching students about the outdoors, educators either take students outside to experience nature or bring nature inside to the students. This person could give a tour to a group of students pointing out natural wonders or they could bring inside, for example, different leaves or animals and use them to educate students. Typically, these

professionals put in about 40 hours per week but it does not always correspond to an 8am to 4pm workday as events or activities can happen in the evening hours. Environmental Educators may also depend upon the help of dedicated volunteers to organize and implement educational programs. The main purpose of all Environmental Educators is to get students, especially those in grade school, to love and appreciate the environment so that as they grow, they continue to love the world around them and work to protect it in whatever capacity. Education is one of the most powerful tools to shape an individuals future, thus Environmental Educators fulfill a necessary goal within the movement because how can we ever protect the environment if we do not teach future generation to love the wonder within it? If you are interested in environmental education you might also like: Park Ranger, Park Manager, or Regional Environmental Education Coordinator, which coordinates with on-the-ground environmental educators to train them, standardize teaching styles and content, and reports to higher levels of government who are funding the positions.

Field Job Title

Environmental Education K-12 Environmental Educator PhD Masters Needed for High School Teacher, not otherwise Regional Bachelors Associate Trade School Other In some instances enough experience will suffice Top Schools

Education No International

Recommended States

Recommended Population Density Urban, Suburban, Rural

Location Yes Salary Range All of US Hours All States Benefits

Employers Government (Park Service), Nonprofits

Working Conditions



Excellent to Fair

Atmosphere Time is divided between work inside and outdoors. You may be working with volunteers or park rangers to plan and implement educational plans. Some High Schools are also being to hire

environmental educators Marketable Skills

Motivational, leader, creative, patient, organized, Developing lesson plans, educating students of all ages, community outreach, working with volunteers.


A Day in the Life...

Education of any topic beings with the planning and crafting of lesson plans to teach your audience about something in a way that they will enjoy it and remember it. An Environmental Educator would apply something they know about their environment, which they believe is important for others to know, and develop activities to teach that information to specific age groups. Research and collaboration with other educators and scientists go into creating lessons plans. After a lesson plan is developed, putting it into action is the next step. The rest of the Environmental Educator's time is usually spent teaching whether that is on sight or going into the community, for example visiting a school. Environmental Educators will also find themselves on any given day working with volunteers who assist in teaching or going out into the community to bring more students to their location.

Projected Career Outlook

Environmental Educators do not usually work for school districts, with notable exceptions, but instead for the parks system as a governmental employee for the city, county, state, or nation depending on what body owns the park. There are also many nonprofits that exist to get students excited about the environment and the world around us. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics only collects data on postsecondary environmental educators, which does not include those who work for parks, high schools, or nonprofit organizations. From conversations with Environmental Educators and Park Rangers this position is becoming more popular but there are not many job

opportunities. That is because school districts, individual parks, or nonprofits will almost always only need and hire one, if any, specific Environmental Educators. Park systems and nonprofits prefer to promote from within while high schools will look more expansively. There are also magnet high schools being established across the country that incorporate environmental education into every subject. For example there is the School of Environmental Studies, which is located outside of Minneapolis.

Education, Preparation, and Skills

To become an Environmental Educator there are a few different paths you could take and depending on whom you are teaching and where you are teaching them will determine the amount of education, experience, and preparation required. If you are working for a park, the Parks Department prefers to see an undergraduate degree with at least a concentration in environmental studies. This may be the case but it is not always necessary, especially if the position primarily educates young grade school students. Parks Departments really like to promote from within and therefore will at times create environmental education positions and fill them with a park ranger who has been working on the park for several years and is therefore very knowledgeable about their specific environment. Therefore, an excellent way to get your foot in the door at a park is to volunteer or apply for a park ranger job. At the high school level you will most likely need at least a master degree because you will be most likely teaching juniors and seniors because school districts like to offer environmental science classes only after students have successfully completed the core science classes like chemistry and biology. As with most teaching professions, Environmental Educators need to be highly creative and patient. Where environmental educators diverge with stereotypical K-12 teaching professions is that they are responsible for teaching more than one age group and thus must develop lesson plans for students ranging from kindergarten to high school and even older. Associations and clubs for adults often field

trip to parks and education centers. They also work with scout troops, science clubs, and retirement communities. This demands of the Environmental Educator to have an advanced and general understanding of environmental science and their specific location. Flexibility and adaptability is also a must.

Related Environmental Careers

If this position is close to what you are looking for there are many other jobs that incorporate environmental education, formally and informally. Working as a Park Ranger or Park Service Specialist, who focus their work in a more specific area of expertise, are other opportunities. You might also be interested in doing environmental education at the post-secondary level.

Further information:

Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education EPA's Resources for Environmental Educators Environmental Educators Organization Authored and Researched by Tony Uhl


Environmental Educator (K-12)

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