ENV737. Environmental Education & Interpretation


“Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.” – Frank Lloyd Wright


Course Description

This course provides you with foundational knowledge and practical communication skills derived from five schools of environmental education (EE): natural resource interpretation, science education, European approaches to EE, placed-based learning, and nature connectedness.

Through readings, program observations, practicums, and instructor- and peer-based evaluations, students learn to evaluate their audience, develop measurable goals for communication, and refine their presentation skills. Students will also be able to adapt presentations and programs based on the five school of EE addressed in class.

Students successfully completing the course will experience the nationally-recognized EE curriculum developed by the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point and also become NAI Certified Interpretive Guides. Prereqs: none (3 credit hours)


Learning Objectives

Upon successful completion of this course, students will:

• Be certified as an Interpretive Guide with the National Association of Interpretation

• Demonstrate improvement as communicators through instructor- and peer-evaluation of teaching

• Understand history and foundational readings of the fields of environmental education and natural resource interpretation

• Be versed in the different schools and approaches of environmental education, including science education, action-competence (i.e., the European school), place-based, natural resource interpretation, and nature connectedness.

• Demonstrate competence in the application of environmental interpretation and one other environmental education approach

• Be able to adapt environmental education programs to align with different environmental education approaches

• Be able to adapt environmental education programs to audiences of various ages, educational backgrounds, goals, and belief systems


Course Background

For over a decade, the Nicholas School has intermittently offered a course in Environmental Education. The course continues to be requested by students demanding training in environmental education and outreach. This training helps students meet the breadth of skills required by employers. For example, the EPA often mandates researchers to complete regular outreach and education initiatives. Moreover, when students understand the theories of learning and behavior change associated with environmental education, they are better able to communicate about environmental issues to a broad range of audiences.

This revamped course is born from Fundamentals of Environmental Education (last offered Fall 2012) feedback from current Master’s students seeking coursework in environmental education. The course is no longer based solely on foundational readings in environmental education, but instead challenges the students to understand both the history and practice of environmental education. Importantly, the course emphasizes students’ active refinement of communication strategies based in the various schools of environmental education (e.g., science education, action-competence (i.e., the European school), place-based, natural resource interpretation, and nature connectedness). Another important change is that students that successfully complete this course will receive National Association for Interpretation (NAI) certification as Interpretive Guides; this certification is required for many National and State Park employees.