Education For The New Environmentalism

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Environmental education is a process that promotes the analysis and understanding of environmental issues and questions as the basis for effective education, problem solving, policymaking, and management. The purposes of environmental education are to foster the education of skilled individuals able to understand environmental problems and possessing the expertise to devise effective solutions to them; and the development of a citizenry conscious of the scope and complexity of current and emerging environmental problems, and supportive of solutions and polices which are ecologically sound.-The preamble to the Constitution of the North American Association for Environmental Education, 1994.

If you are college-bound, your choice of college may be determined by finances, geographic preference, grades and SATs, the institution's reputation, its rating in various directories, how much scholarship funding it has available, and other factors, subjective as well as objective (including perhaps where your parents went to college).

It is unwise, even for the student highly motivated toward an environ-mental career, to focus too early on only one institution or type. You can get a good grounding in science and the liberal arts at almost any of the 1,200 community colleges or 1,800 four-year colleges and universities in America. Find a school at which you feel comfortable but challenged. Many students transfer, especially between sophomore and junior years, so an initial choice can easily be changed, usually without significant loss of credits.

This chapter focuses on environmental science/environmental studies (sometimes abbreviated ES/ES). This is a type of higher education that is interdisciplinary/integrated/involved. A bachelor's degree in ES may qualify you for entry into some fields for which the bachelor's degree is standard for professional practice, e.g., agricultural sciences, fisheries, soils or wildlife conservation, and range management. Even in the field of environmental health, there are some professions, e.g., industrial hygiene, and several categorical specialties in which a postgraduate degree may not be necessary.

Furthermore, there are new functions, which the ES/ES graduate may be better qualified to perform than someone who has a narrow science or engineering specialty. An example may be preparing environmental impact studies and statements or editing and publishing scientific, engineering, or economic reports. A good grounding in English and social science, beneficial to any professional, would be especially so in this work.

Organizations Offering Guidance On Environmental Education And Careers

North American Association for Environmental Education

The North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE), established in 1971, is a professional membership organization with more than 2,500 members in the United States and over 40 other countries. It has significant membership in Canada and Mexico, has met in both countries, and is equally attentive to their environments and to that of the United States. In fact, it is concerned with the social and environmental betterment of people everywhere, through environ-mental education.

"NAAEE is made up of people who have thought seriously-over lifetimes-about how people become literate concerning environmental issues," says Edward McCrea, the association's executive director. "Association members believe education must go beyond consciousness rising. Environmental education must prepare people to think about the difficult decisions they must make concerning environmental steward-ship and [how] to work together towards the resolution of environmental problems."

Environmental education must integrate knowledge from the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities, according to NAAEE's ten guiding principles, but information and analysis are only part of an effective education program. McCrea explains: "NAAEE believes that to be truly effective this body of knowledge must be integrated into all aspects of the curriculum and must be viewed within a broad social context. Environmental education must build on a foundation of relevancy, and employ education techniques for reaching the widest array of audiences."

The NAAEE Board of Directors has voted to take the lead in developing, by consensus, a model set of voluntary national standards for environmental education (EE). Areas to be covered are EE materials, EE student performance, and environmental educator performance standards.

Chairing the effort is Prof. Bora Simmons of Northern Illinois University at DeKalb, who is quoted in the Environmental Communicator as saying: "We believe that environmental education should be an integral part of every student's schooling. Infused throughout the curriculum, EE supports the high standards set by the traditional disciplines. More importantly, environmental education encompasses the knowledge, skills, and inclinations that are essential to maintaining equilibrium between quality of life and quality of the environment."

Self-descriptive are three of NAAEE's four membership sections: college and university environmental programs, conservation education, and elementary and secondary education. A fourth, non-formal, is for those who work in museums, zoos, camps, nature centers, and youth organizations. (A committee on environmental health may lead to a fifth section.)

'The field of environmental studies has seen tremendous growth over the past five or more years," writes College and University Section Chair Jim Elder, who is at The School for Field Studies, Beverly, Massachusetts. "Rough estimates are that the number of undergraduate ES programs has more than doubled in the United States, and overall enrolment in ES programs has gone up more than fourfold during this period."

NAAEE offers student membership at a reduced rate. Membership in a section is at no additional charge, as are access to a skills bank, jobs and internships listings, and other services. All members receive the bi-monthly Environmental Communicator and may attend the annual conference. NAAEE publications, and environmental periodicals issued by other organizations, are available to NAAEE members at reduced rates. (For the address of NAAEE and other organizations described here, see listings at the end of this chapter.)

The Environmental Careers Organization

The Environmental Careers Organization (ECO) is a national, non-profit-but not membership-organization dedicated to the development of individuals' environmental careers. "These are a lifelong learning activity where you live, work, and play-through your job, philanthropy, and volunteerism," states ECO's latest annual report. "Our mission is to protect and enhance the environment through the development of professionals, the promotion of careers, and the inspiration of individual action."
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