After realizing the sheer number of Colorado College students interested in environmental stewardship and outdoor education, the Education and Environmental Science Departments have united to create a new program that provides the student body with the opportunity to become certified as environmental educators.
CC has offered an education minor for many years but it was not until this year that Howard Drossman, Environmental Science professor, and Mike Taber, Education professor, came together to create a separate thematic minor for environmental education.
Currently, the education minor requires five courses: four education classes and one independent study culminating in a final capstone project. However, the environmental education minor would also require at least one course that demonstrates environmental literacy within Colorado, such as an ecology or geology class.
Junior Kelly Latterman is currently working on her education capstone project and will be the first CC student to submit a portfolio of her work in Environmental Education to the Colorado Association for Environmental Education (CAEE). By submitting her portfolio, a demonstration of her environmental literacy, and lesson plans, she hopes to become a certified environmental educator.
“Environmental education is a prime example of situational learning combining psychology, behavior, and environment,” Latterman said.
Environmental Education has been a block-long course at CC for some time now. However, Taber hopes that by creating a thematic minor for Environmental Education, the workload in making a portfolio will be more doable and spread out.
“The workload of environmental education is difficult to manage because you do about 75 percent of the state-required environmental education portfolio over the course of the block,” sophomore Kevin Moss explained. “You start out writing about education theory and practice through an environmental perspective and then gradually move to making lesson plans and reflecting on your teaching experiences.
In the summer of 2013, the pilot program for the Environmental Education Certification Program (EECP) will take place over the course of three summer blocks. This 24-student program will allow its participants ample time to get a basis in educational foundations as well as an understanding of the Colorado environment before spending the last block teaching local youth up at the Catamount Center.
Taber explained that utilizing the Catamount Center, a Colorado field school located outside of Woodland Park, will be crucial in the environmental education minor as it will be the place CC students can try out their lesson plans on various age levels. During the summer program, students will spend A Block on campus, before heading up to the Catamount Center, which will become their home base for the following two months.
The program will culminate during C Block when students will take Environmental Education. During the final two weeks of the program, local youth from Colorado Springs (most likely fourth through eighth grades) will come stay at Catamount Center to participate in an environmentally oriented camp, which EECP students will help coordinate. Through this camp, EECP students will have the chance to see how their environmental lessons pan out.
This program has been advertised at liberal arts schools on the East Coast as well, although enrollment won’t begin until next semester. Students who have already fulfilled one or more of the course requirements are not required to take all three.
However, completing the program does not in itself certify one to become an environmental educator. Instead, one must apply through the Colorado Association for Environmental Education (CAEE), by submitting a portfolio. The EECP simply prepares students to create a successful portfolio.
Eventually, Taber would like EECP to become a study abroad-like semester program, taking place entirely at the Catamount Center. Over the course of one semester, students would have the opportunity to become environmental educators and by the end of it, would only be missing one course in the completion of an education minor.
“The hope for Howard and I both is that it will actually become a semester program. In reality, we need a fourth block for the independent study to make the portfolio,” Taber said.
The CAEE certificate helps build a strong resume for someone looking to go into the fields of outdoor education or environmental science. The certification is applicable for jobs varying from field-based instructing at companies like NOLS to educators in the National Park system. However, it is important to note that it is not a legal document and does not substitute for teaching licensure in public schools. The CAEE is part of the National Alliance for Environmental Education and is honored in other states.
When asked about his sustained passion for environmental education, Taber responded enthusiastically.
“It’s a great way to figure out who you are. You learn your own personal limits. You learn what you appreciate, what you don’t appreciate. You learn about how you perceive the world around you. Especially when it’s quiet,” Taber said.
These words strike home with many CC students who are passionate about the outdoors. For questions about the minor or the summer program, feel free to contact Taber at Mike.Taber@ColoradoCollege.edu
Active Life Editor