Environmental Educator

Environmental educators are teachers, coordinators, facilitators, communicators, mentors, and community leaders. They work in various locales and with various audiences: some work in schools and post-secondary institutions, some teach adults through workshops and conferences, and others work in places such as zoos and parks. Environmental educators teach others about conservation, preservation, and sustainability issues and play a significant role in developing environmental awareness.

At a Glance

Imagine carefully wading through knee-deep pools of water and thick, brown mud. Behind you trail five elementary students, each carrying a glass bottle and a small magnifying glass like the one in your hand. You are an environmental educator, and today you are leading a field trip of seven- and eight-year-olds along the edge of an important wetland, looking for insects. These students have spent the last four months learning about insects in their science class and have been brought here today to see some bugs up close.

As an environmental educator, you regularly participate in field trips like this one and enjoy providing students with a living lesson to accompany what they have learned in the classroom. You started this morning by explaining to the class what a wetland is, what it does, and why it is important. You explained that wetlands act like natural filters, helping to remove contaminants and harmful chemicals from the water. Next, you split the kids into smaller groups that you are leading one at a time out into the wetland.

In addition to the glass jar and magnifying glass, each child is outfitted in a pair of rubber boots and a safari hat. You describe to the students the kinds of insects that live in the water and mud and explain how these insects contribute to this ecosystem. You show the group how to pick up some water in their jars and use their magnifying glasses to see the living things inside. In your jar, you pick up a water boatman and share the find with your young audience. You explain how water boatmen move on the water’s surface, and then you put your specimen back so the kids can watch it swim away.

After a few more minutes exploring, you will take this group back to where a table and drawing supplies have been set up, so they can diagram what they’ve seen, and you can take another group out exploring. As an environmental educator, you know these students will go home today with greater knowledge and appreciation for insects and wetlands.

Job Duties

Duties vary significantly from job to job, but the following list includes typical job duties one might encounter as an environmental educator:

  • Engage youth, teachers, and the public in developing environmental awareness.
  • Conduct environmentally based lessons in both classroom and field settings.
  • Coordinate environmental training for teachers and the public.
  • Develop curriculum-based resources and provide support for other educators.
  • Write resource material, including hard copy, online, and multimedia publications.
  • Deliver seminars and presentations to businesses and technical personnel on various environmental topics, for example, climate change, watershed protection, or recycling and composting.
  • Build partnerships and networks and facilitate discussions between stakeholders of differing interests to reach workable management decisions.
  • Develop and implement communication plans and programs.
  • Manage budgets and prepare grant proposals.

Work Environment

Environmental educators work in a variety of locations, including:

The office:

  • Developing resource material
  • Preparing environmental awareness programs and communication strategies
  • Researching curriculum and environmental issues
  • Communicating on the phone and in meetings with clients, stakeholders, government departments, colleagues, and experts in the field

The field:

  • Leading group discussions and conducting demonstrations
  • Visiting schools, senior citizens, and community groups to educate others
  • Giving presentations and facilitating workshops
  • Participating in trade shows and conferences

Where to Work

There are several places environmental educators can find employment. They include:

  • Public and private schools
  • Institutions such as zoos, aquariums, wildlife preserves, and parks
  • Federal, provincial/territorial, and municipal government departments, including parks
  • Not-for-profit and non-governmental environmental organizations


Search for jobs on the ECO Canada Job Board.

Education and Skills

Education

If you are a high school student considering a career as an environmental educator, you should have a strong interest in:

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • English
  • Social Studies
  • Art
  • Physical Education/Outdoor Education

If you are a post-secondary student considering a career as an environmental educator, the following programs are most applicable:

  • Education
  • Environmental Studies
  • Environmental Science
  • Natural Science

The minimum education requirement to work as an environmental educator is usually a university undergraduate degree. Environmental educators have a range of backgrounds, but one important skill common to all is an understanding how people learn.

Our Environmental Professional (EP) designation can also help you progress in your chosen environmental career.

Skills

Technical Skills

  • Instructing
  • Learning and Teaching Strategies
  • Evaluation
  • Monitoring
  • Speech Clarity
  • Written Expression
  • Categorization Flexibility

Personal and Professional Skills

  • Service Orientation
  • Active Learning
  • Adaptability
  • Attention to Detail
  • Concern for Others
  • Leadership
  • Social Orientation
  • Stress Tolerance

Environmental employers seek professionals who combine technical knowledge with personal and professional skills. Watch our free webinar “Essential Not Optional: Skills Needed to Succeed in Canada’s Environmental Industry” or take our Essential Skills courses.

Education and Skills

Johanna Martin

Growing up on a sheep farm, environmental educator Johanna Martin remembers "the environment was always kind of part of our life.” But it wasn’t until she attended an environmental science information night hosted by a local university that, as she tells it, "I said that’s what I want to do!!” Almost a decade later, the southern Ontario native is working in Whitehorse as head of environmental education for a local recycling company.

On any given day, she can be found writing proposals for new company equipment, educating businesses on setting up their own recycling plans or leading a tour of the local landfill. It’s this variety of responsibilities that Johanna considers one of the pluses of her job. "I get to work with people, I get to get out in the community, and I get to feel like I’m actually doing something…making some sort of contribution.” Johanna also enjoys that her job is fairly self-directed. She can establish the scope of her year, right down to developing the educational projects she thinks are worthwhile. "That picks up on my own personal energy toward a project, and I think makes it a better project in the end.”

One drawback of Johanna’s job is the quantity of work, but she admits that it’s largely due to her own enthusiasm for the subject. "I just try to do too much…I want to make as big a commitment, contribution, and difference as I can.” She’s streamlining her efforts by focusing on developing "effective” programs to create behaviour change. "Until now, this industry has been very good at handing out information…information does not lead to behaviour change.” Johanna’s goal is not to tell people what they should be doing, but to inspire them to do it on their own.

Your Impact

Environmental educators are crucial in promoting environmental awareness, sustainability, and conservation. Their job directly impacts the environment in several ways. Environmental educators raise awareness about environmental issues, such as climate change, pollution, biodiversity loss, and natural resource depletion. By providing information and knowledge, they empower individuals to make informed decisions and take steps to protect the environment. Through their teachings, environmental educators encourage individuals to adopt environmentally friendly behaviours and practices. They promote actions like recycling, energy and water conservation, and responsible consumption, which collectively contribute to reducing environmental impacts.

Environmental educators inspire the next generation to become environmental stewards. By fostering a sense of environmental responsibility and encouraging critical thinking, they equip students with the knowledge and skills to address sustainability challenges in their personal lives and future careers. The connection between environmental education and sustainability is intrinsic. Environmental education promotes the principles and practices of sustainability, which seek to balance environmental protection, social equity, and economic well-being. By educating individuals about the importance of sustainable practices, environmental educators contribute to building a more sustainable future.

Occupational Classification

Environmental educators may be classified in the following occupational groupings:

NOC Code: 41210 – College and other vocational instructors

What is an NOC Code?

The National Occupation Classification (NOC) provides a standardized language for describing the work performed by Canadians in the labour market. It gives statisticians, labour market analysts, career counsellors, employers, and individual job seekers a consistent way to collect data and describe and understand the nature of work within different occupations.

 

The opinions and interpretations in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Government of Canada.

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