Careers In Environmental Education: There is Always a New Adventure
I’ve not been in Environmental Eduction for very long…however, that is still long enough to learn what EE can do for those dedicated to the field, like it did for me:
1. Give you an excuse to travel.
Straight out of college is the perfect time to do that. A lot of EE positions are seasonal, which means you can go and work at new and exciting places for a short amount of time, and either stick around or move on if you so choose. I’ve been lucky enough to work in two completely separate ecosystems: My first position as a naturalist intern illuminated the finer points of an eastern deciduous forest in central Ohio, while my current position has allowed me to expand my knowledge base even further on the coast of Georgia in an island ecosystem involving beaches, marshes, and maritime forest. I’ve encountered completely different cultures: new music, new cuisine, even new architecture. When I made the decision to move to Georgia for a season, I was met with mixed reviews. Some of my friends could not comprehend why I would move so far away for a job that was only temporary, and as such, did not provide the security and benefits of a permanent position. My answer to them was simple: when else in my life would I have the opportunity to live on an island (for super cheap, no less)? Probably never again. This was an opportunity I could not refuse. I have colleagues that have lived on remote islands working with sea turtles, out west in Colorado, and even some that have worked in Washington, D.C.. The sky is the limit in this field, and that is a pretty awesome thing.
2. Give you a chance to truly hone your skills.
Working in a variety of environments and being employed by different organizations gives you the opportunity to stretch your skills and really learn to adapt your teaching skills to what is best for your group and your organization. In Ohio, I was leading two hikes every day. I had a lesson to maintain, certain objectives to hit, but I also had a large interpretive responsibility to the students as well. A lot of these kids had never been to a forest before, let alone seen a deer or an owl. If I was in the middle of a geology class and one of my students pointed out a fawn and its mother, you had better believe I learned to grab hold of those teachable moments in the forest that we may never see again. I also learned to handle birds of prey, something I had never encountered before. Here in Georgia, I’ve had the opportunity to polish my presentation and classroom teaching skills. We still do some interpretation, but we have so many activities we want to do with the kids that I often have to utilize classroom skills to make sure I hit the proper objectives and that we are all on the same page. Here, instead of birds of prey, I’ve further developed my skills in learning how to handle alligators and a large amount of marine invertebrates, an experience I would have found in very few places.
3. Give you the opportunity to figure out what you truly want to do with your career.
Each EE program has its own style. Some are more interpretive, some are more classroom involved, and some are a blend of both. Some may be something different entirely. I learned so much during my year in Ohio. It provided me with immeasurable experience that has helped me pursue my career, pushing me toward where I wanted to be. After a year in the forest, I decided I wanted to work on the Georgia islands. I had always wanted to pursue marine biology, and I was convinced this was the perfect place for me. Moving to Georgia is the best decision I could have possibly made. Not only did I get to pursue what I wanted, but it made me realize that it was no longer what I wanted with my life. I love the beach, and I love the marsh. However, working here has taught me that where I truly belong, where I am most happy, is interpreting the natural forest. I’ve figured out, through working at two very similar but also very different positions, that I really enjoy interpreting what is in front of me, back in the forest. As I’ve lived here, I’ve realized how much I missed hiking, trail running, and wildflowers in the spring. I’ve missed working with my birds of prey, and being surrounded by the trees I’ve learned to call home. I could not have had these realizations without this opportunity here in Georgia. It is because of this that I know exactly what positions I will want to pursue in the future.
Without these seasonal positions, I would not be where I am today. EE has provided me a dynamic work environment that has kept me on my toes, and helped me zero in on exactly what I want. I am happy to announce that because of EE has done for me, I am leaving the seasonal realm of EE and starting my permanent career as a Naturalist at a National Recreation Area, back in the forest I love so much. Keep tuned to DANTAisms for posts from the rest of the DANTA alumni. I will see you all again in a couple weeks after I’ve settled in!
Do you work in EE? What do you do? What do you love? If you are interested in EE and don’t know where to start, shoot us an email!