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February 4, 2011

Leading the Way to Environmental Literacy and Quality:

USEE was recently featured in an article written by EETAP (Environmental Education & Training Partnership). Read the feature below, or find the full article here.

The Utah Society for Environmental Education (USEE), a professional association for environmental educators in Utah, is also making extensive use of the guidelines.

Training for newcomers to the field such as Americorps volunteers or seasonal naturalists follows the guidelines. USEE staff feels that the guidelines contain the core of what everyone in the field
should know when they begin to teach. But it doesn’t stop there. USEE uses the Materials Guidelines to review environmental education materials. The purpose behind conducting these
reviews is to evaluate the quality of environmental education publications and activities. However, USEE’s Executive Director, Andree’ Walker, feels that the review experience itself is very important. By participating in the review process, all of the reviewers gain a better feeling for the attributes that high quality environmental education materials have in common.

Following this thread of improved competency for environmental educators, USEE, like the Kentucky Environmental Education Council has developed a certification program for environmental educators based on the guidelines. The program works at two
levels – provisional certification for those who have just entered the field and lack extensive experience and full certification for those with more experience to back up the academic background they may have acquired in college.

USEE staff feel that their certification program may have reached the “tipping point.” It appears that the majority of environmental educators in Utah are realizing the benefits of becoming certified. In addition, employers in the field are beginning to look for certified environmental educators in their job searches.

Walker pointed out that in addition to the obvious benefits to the individual being certified, the program also has benefits for USEE as the certifying agency. The
national guidelines give USEE greater visibility and credibility as it administers a certification program. In addition, USEE is being seen by many younger environmental educators as relevant to their needs and interests. There is some evidence that certification is pushing membership increases for USEE. The nominal fees assessed as part of the certification program approximately cover the cost of administering the program. So, USEE can provide a service to the state’s environmental educators that also benefits the society with little to no drain on the organization’s resources.

USEE also is using the guidelines to help its state education agency complete an environmental literacy plan for Utah. When first considering how to provide input on the Environmental Literacy Plan development, USEE members felt they were faced with an insurmountable task. Upon reflection, they realized that the Guidelines for Excellence could immensely reduce the amount of work needed. By reviewing the state’s core curriculum and comparing it to the guidelines, USEE could concentrate on those areas where there appeared to be gaps. As a result, USEE’s contribution to the environmental literacy planning process has been focused and to the point. Their comments don’t reinvent the wheel but instead target needed new components or components that should be updated.

The national Guidelines for Excellence in Environmental Education are very much a part of the Utah Society for Environmental Education. Programs such as Certification, Resource Review, the USEE Conference, Professional Development and our current Environmental Literacy Plan efforts are rooted in the guidelines. They not only help shape our programs, but lend further validity and strength to our programs and organization, as well as the entire field of environmental education.

Andree’ Walker, Executive Director, USEE

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