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EE in preservice teacher programs

I am working with the City of Austin and the the Austin Independent School District to activate an outdoor learning space which was installed at an elementary school this past summer. Basically my job is to teach the teachers at the school how to teach anything outside. We'll be doing science, language arts, social studies, art, etc. outside. I'll be running professional development for the teachers and also leading some of the lessons with their students to model the lessons.

We have been discussing the long-term sustainability of this project (funded by the Cities Connecting Children to Nature initiative run by the National League of Cities, the Children & Nature Network, and others) and I continue to think that the only way to make teaching outside something that happens regularly is to introduce classes like "Teaching Art Outdoors", "Teaching Math Outdoors", "Classroom Management outside of the Classroom", etc. at the pre-service level.

Which universities/teacher certification programs are doing something like this?


Ilya Shmulenson, M.Ed.

Thanks for your post! Our pre-service teachers are required to take a three credit course called Introduction to Environmental Studies and Education. We spend 2/3 of the time on EE pedagogy, including teaching outdoors. I'm at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and would be happy to talk more!
Take care,

Hi Ilya! I'm Michaela in San Antonio. I had developed a graduate online program that was nature-based and included STEAM with spirituality, arts, music, and movement along with family and community involvement. While my previous university liked my proposed program, they did not have the resources to support a new program. After 16 years I left there. I am now an adjunct at Prescott College in Arizona and they have a new early childhood nature and place-based program at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. The program is offered online as a Limited Residency program. I'm also serving as the interim director for their Summer Institute for Nature and Place-based Early Childhood Education which will take place June 10-14th in Prescott, AZ. The Institute is in its third year of operation and is a professional development opportunity for ECE
educators. We are hoping to take the program on the road . I would love to talk with you further since you are right up the road from me! Michaela Cole

Hi Ilya. The problem we have here is that our elementary education degree is already overloaded with credits, so there is no room to add any outdoor teaching courses. This is compounded by the fact that most of our preservice teachers have no intention (or desire) to teach outdoors, and many will end up in schools where it would be very challenging to do so even if they wanted to. So my current solution is designing a special honors track that would appeal to the (hopefully not too small) percentage that is passionate about environmental education, with special sections and assignments for them scattered across a couple of their required courses and practicum.

Hello Ilya,

We have two universities in North Carolina that integrate EE into pre-service teacher education. One, UNC Greensboro integrates our environmental education certification program. The contact there is Dr. Matthews: Also, Scott Morrison at Elon University also has students do a good amount of EE workshops and training: Also, NC State University is developing EE programs for undergrads now which may be integrated into their Masters degree in teaching.

This is very similar to what I am developing for teacher candidates at Elon University. Right now I have developed a minor in environmental education, which includes a capstone course taught entirely outside. We cover forest schooling, garden-based learning, history and philosophy of environmental education, curriculum design principles, interdisciplinary lesson planning, instructional methods, and assessment strategies. Ideally, I could do this work across several courses, but I have to show administrators the demand first. So far, I have 24 students who have declared the minor, so things are moving in the right direction. Would be happy to talk with you about what you envision and perhaps even explore ways to collaborate.

Hello! Here at Arizona State University we now have an EE Program of Distinction certificate. This is open to many colleges but some of the classes are now embedded into our pre-service major maps! It took many years to get to this place but students are now being exposed to more nature focused classes.

Dear Molina, Would you be willing to share titles and descriptions of courses that have been included in your "major maps?" would love to see what made it in! Paul Winterhoff

Hello all,
I've been asked to present/attend our local community college elementary pre-service teacher share fair. They're facilitating it in a world-cafe style. I'm hoping to share a few tidbits with these students about how they can incorporate EE into their future classrooms.
Do any of you know of a resource that has EE pointers for future teachers? I'm thinking there has to be a list of 10 ways to bring EE into your classroom. Have you seen anything like this? If so please send it my way.
Thank you in advance!

Also, this same college, Colorado Mountain College is beginning to create a secondary science teacher certificate bachelors program and is interested in involving leaders in EE (myself and others) to help them incorporate EE into the program from the beginning. I am soliciting your collective wisdom on how best to approach this. There are so many possibilities.
If any of you have been part of these types of projects, please be in touch. If you have any detailed resources you could share, please send them my way.
Thanks again!

Hi Molina,
I am pursuing my masters in EE at Montreat College in North Carolina. My thesis is creating a course of study for undergraduate Elementary Education majors so that when they graduate they will have NCEE Certification. Do you have any references or information about how your college was able to incorporate EE into an existing Elementary Education program? Thanks!

Sarah, great resources you have made available! Thank you! I am currently restructuring a freshmen-level course (Intro to Scientific Inquiry) to align with sustainability learning objectives which will open the course up to others beyond elementary education pre-majors. The conversation thread has been an interesting one to follow!

Hi. I currently utilize the outdoor space within my science methods course for elementary education majors. We are fortunate to have a river and a park bordering our university campus. These provide a great backdrop for nature-based studies. I also utilize the concepts of place to integrate historical, social, socio-economic, and other aspects of science content. It really does make for a well-rounded understanding of how to design lessons and break down the classroom walls. For example, today we are going to a nearby park to help learn more about invasive species and to help minimize its impact. All of this will be guided and facilitated by two park interpreters. By the way, Austin is an awesome place! I used to live in Tyler.