Outdoor educational experiences are some of the most memorable events in lifelong learning. Educational research shows that nature experiences can help children, even those with learning challenges, to focus and retain knowledge better during outdoor studies.
Ecological education occurs in a broad range of venues, including outdoor educational facilities such as nature centers, botanical gardens or nature camps. But ecological education also occurs in locations such as museums of natural history, aquaria, zoos, private nature preserves and county, state or national parks. Teachers in K-12 schools fulfill the role of ecological educators, especially when they take students outside for learning experiences.
Ecology students seeking a career in ecological education should have two main areas of study. They need to develop an expertise in natural history, becoming skilled in the identification of organisms commonly encountered outside, such as plants, insects and birds. The second area is a broad understanding of how human activities influence the environment. This includes climate change, habitat loss and degradation, and pollution. Knowledge of environmental issues also must include positive actions that people can take to improve the environment. Ecological education emphasis students are strongly encouraged to participate in field programs such as the UGA Costa Rica program in Tropical Biology or field courses at the Georgia coast and Florida Keys.
Internships are strongly recommended for students. There are opportunities at the Georgia Museum of Natural History, State Botanical Garden, Sandy Creek Nature Center and many other locations statewide. Interns gain practical skills that prepare students for careers.
For students who want to become educators in public schools, additional formal coursework in a college of education and teacher certification is required. Private schools vary in whether they require formal course work and certification.