Environmental Education at Florida Atlantic University

11/20/2009  |  CAROL E. MELTZER, ED.D.
teaching environmental education

Some of us are born leaders, some of us are born followers and some of us are born advisors. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t an advisor. It all began in kindergarten, many more years ago than I care to admit.As a result, it seemed only natural, when the dean of my college asked me how I’d go about creating a unique graduate degree in environmental education, a degree that would include all of the colleges in the university,

a program truly interdisciplinary in concept, as well as implementation, I just couldn’t resist. I gave him my “advice,” and very quickly, I found myself assigned to the Pine Jog Environmental Education Center, under the auspices of the College of Education at Florida Atlantic University (FAU).

I spent my first year at Pine Jog getting to know the center, the staff and researching other environmental education graduate programs nationally and in Canada.What I discovered was truly eye-opening. Hundreds of wonderful programs were identified as environmental education, when in fact, nearly all of these outstanding programs are actually either environmental science or environmental studies.

The task ahead of me was obvious. Before I could design a new master’s degree program, I’d need to identify the concept of environmental education.

What better place to begin then with the Tbilisi Declaration, the founding document, that’s never been surpassed for simple, straight forward language describing a burgeoning field of study, and created by real people at the world’s first intergovernmental conference on environmental education.The conference was organized by the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in cooperation with the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) and convened in Tbilisi, Georgia (USSR) from October 14-26, 1977. Delegates from around the world participated and adopted the Tbilisi by acclamation at the end of the conference. This declaration describes the role, objectives and characteristics of the interdisciplinary field of study identified as environmental education.The entire document is available at http:// www.pinejog.fau.edu/TeachersAndEducators/GraduateProgram.

The 36-semester hour university-wide, interdisciplinary Master’s Degree (M.Ed.) in Environmental Education is offered through the Department of Teaching and Learning in the College of Education at Florida Atlantic Univer-sity.This is a comprehensive graduate program in environmental education, designed to serve students with diverse interests, learning and life styles.This goal was accomplished by providing opportunities for study in a variety of content areas offered by several different methods of delivery, including:

  • Distance learning
  • Fast tracks
  • Standard delivery
  • Studies abroad and mixed mode.

The program consists of 12 courses, including eight required courses and four electives, selected from a wide variety of choices from FAU colleges throughout the university and approved for each of four environmental concentrations:

Middle Grades General Science for Certified Elementary Teachers — enhances science knowledge and skills in the classroom.

Advanced Study for Certified Middle and High School Teachers — explores the multi-disciplinary content areas of environmental education.

Educators and Non-Profit Administrators — prepares candidates for employment in nature and environmental education centers.

Sustainable Planning Educators — prepares candidates for employment in non-formal public and private settings. In addition to providing our graduate students the flexibility to plan their studies in collaboration with departments and centers across FAU and the university community, the program also provides unique opportunities for student internships and action research through the Pine Jog Center, a 135-acre living laboratory and natural preserve located in the heart of Palm Beach County, as well as the Everglades Youth Conservation Camp, 252 acres surrounded by 60,000 acres of Everglades habitat.

Also unique to this master’s degree program is the exciting collaboration with the Pine Jog Elementary School, Florida’s first green elementary school, located on Pine Jog property, that provides a wealth of opportunities to apply academic theory to practical experiences in the classroom.

Ms. Meltzer is the Environmental Education Interdisciplinary Programs Coordinator at the Pine Jog Environmental Education Center, a unit of the College of Education, Florida Atlantic University. For more information visit www.pinejog.org.
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