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Association for Environmental & Outdoor education

AEOE strengthens environmental education in California by connecting providers, building professional expertise, and championing environmental literacy and outdoor learning.

environmental educator certification program 


The Environmental Educator Certification Program (EECP) recognizes experienced environmental educators for their skills and contributions to the field and draws together stewards and educators of the environment into a structured and effective initiative. The EECP is an 11-month program in which environmental educators demonstrate their competency through group discussion, individual reflection, submission of assignments, and the completion and presentation of a community action project. Through participation in the certification program, educators expand their professional networks, make important connections across the state, and better understand the full spectrum of environmental education careers available. EECP is conducted online over Zoom and utilizes Canvas as its learning management platform. 

Certification is a public declaration that a certain individual meets a stringent level of requirements and has a specific set of skills. The benefit of an established certification process extends to the individual, the public, and the field itself. Having the EECP enhances the legitimacy of the profession by building a uniform foundation in effectively teaching about the environment. 

If you are a supervisor and are interested in learning more about the benefits of sponsoring your staff to enroll in the program or want to know how you can support their participation, click hereAdvance your career and get certified as an environmental educator! 

Click here to see the full list of environmental educators certified in California!

EECP Info Sessions & Final Community Action Project Presentations

Are you interested in becoming certified as an environmental educator but aren't sure if this is the right next step for you? Join us for an information session! Click the session below to register:

If the times above don't work for your schedule, click here to access the recording from the first info session offered on April 10.

The program culminates in a community action project that addresses a need in the participant’s community. The action projects are designed to help encourage environmental literacy, support community engagement, and inspire positive change. Participants present their projects at the statewide conference for environmental and outdoor education, or through online sessions in small groups. All are welcome to attend and celebrate their work. The online session information is below:

Monday, 5/20 from 7:30-8:30 PM |Click here to join the Monday session.

Tuesday, 5/21 from 4:30-5:30 PM | Click here to join the Tuesday session.

EECP applications for the 2024-2025 program are open now! (deadline June 30)

Complete applications include the following:

(1) completed application form, and

(2) payment of the non-refundable $25 application fee

Applications are due every year on June 30 for the following year. Applicants are notified in early July of the status of their application. If you would like to see the application form questions ahead of time to draft your responses, click here and make a copy or download the document

Interest form: Click here if you would like to be added to our interest form for next year's program

Program Fee

In addition to the $25 application fee, accepted program participants are responsible for the full program fee, chosen voluntarily based on need: $350 at assisted rate, $400 at standard rate, or $450 at a contributor rate (which helps cover the costs of those needing assistance). 

Program Scholarships 

For the 2024-2025 Environmental Educator Certification Program, ten partial scholarships (tuition assistance offered at 50% of the standard rate) are available for individuals that identify as a member of a community that has historically and systemically been marginalized in the field of Environmental Education (EE). At least half of the scholarships are specifically designated for individuals that identify as Black, Indigenous, or a Person of Color (BIPOC). Click here to request a scholarship

Scholarships for the 2024-2025 program year are funded by the California Coastal Commission’s Whale Tail Grant Program. If you would also like to contribute to this fund, click here to donate

The environmentally literate Californian

The air, water, land, and organisms of this planet make human life possible. It is imperative that society works toward growing a citizenry of environmentally literate individuals. Californians who are thoughtful, critical, and interested in learning about nature and how it functions can make informed decisions that improve the quality of life in their communities. They are able to assess values, evaluate issues, predict consequences, and make positive changes in the world around them. An environmentally literate person understands ecological systems and how natural processes are interconnected and actively works for sustainable outcomes, considering the impact of their actions today and in the future, and expresses themselves as citizens of their community, country, and planet through voting, civic action, service, and conscientious choices. A world full of environmentally literate individuals can ultimately lead to healthy communities and societies committed to sustainable habits fueled by creative alternatives and a common respect for the resources that sustain us.

In the high tech, fast-paced world in which we live, the role of the environmental educator is increasingly important. The role of an environmental educator is to support the development of environmentally literate citizens. Environmental educators do not tell their audience what to think, but rather guide them in understanding the world around them. They reveal the wonders of this planet and the processes behind it to their students. Environmental educators share the joy of nature and humanity’s place in it. An environmental educator demonstrates place-based best practices in teaching about the environment in an inclusive, experiential, and engaging manner. While we commend and celebrate environmental education in all formats, AEOE believes that environmental education is best optimized in outdoor settings, where students can experience natural systems firsthand. This program has been designed to reflect our commitment to outdoor learning.

Who should get certified?

Anyone who currently teaches about the environment could benefit from becoming a certified environmental educator. You may consider yourself a formal, non-formal, or informal educator, working in public or private sectors of education. Examples of professions that may be interested in the certification include, but are not limited to, PreK-12th grade school teachers, nature center employees, state park interpreters, naturalists, community educators, college professors, and instructors at residential environmental or outdoor science schools.  

This program is designed for educators with some experience; that is, the EECP should not be your first foray into environmental education, nor do we expect that you are a seasoned veteran. Program participants will need to have completed at least two years of relevant teaching experience prior to starting the program and are eager to enhance their professional experience and refine their craft.

The process of certification allows the individual environmental educator to further their understanding of key environmental topics and improve their craft. As candidates go through the certification process, you will find opportunities for personal growth and learning while building professional contacts through shared experiences. Reflecting on your practice, stretching into new comfort zones, learning new skills, developing interdisciplinary thinking, and learning with others will support you in becoming a better educator in whatever role you hold or aspire to achieve. As part of a group of motivated individuals, networking with other environmental educators around the state can also lead to new and exciting employment opportunities. Upon certification, candidates will be recognized for their accomplishments and hence, will experience increased marketability. Certified environmental educators will be viewed as rising leaders in the profession and will be better equipped to make a positive impact in their communities. 

Requirements for Certification 

To obtain EE certification, candidates must successfully participate in all program elements and demonstrate competency in the themes outlined below, in addition to completion of a Final Community Action Project to be presented at AEOE’s spring statewide conference. 

Candidate criteria

In order to be accepted into the program, EECP candidates must meet the following criteria:

  • Have completed at least two years or four semesters/seasons of relevant teaching experience (this can include both paid and volunteer roles)
  • Live and work in California
  • Have reliable internet access and access to a computer/tablet
  • Ability to devote an average of 2-4 hours/week (approx. 10 hours/month) to online meetings and program requirements
  • Be committed to working in the field of EE 
  • Available on either the 3rd Monday from 7-8:30 PM or the 3rd Tuesday from 4:30-6 PM for cohort meetings over Zoom

 Prior to beginning the EECP program, candidates must:

  • complete an application
  • pay the non-refundable $25 application fee

If accepted, candidates must:

  • pay the program fee in full by August 1st, 2024 (chosen voluntarily: $350 at assisted rate, $400 at regular rate, or $450 at a contributor rate)

Program Elements

  • Cohort Participation: Each participant joins monthly calls, comprising approximately 20-30 members. The cohort meetings include check-ins, presentation of relevant material, breakout conversations, and group assignments. Meetings occur over Zoom.
  • Engagement in Online Learning Community: Group discussions, chat, and digital submission of assignments. 
  • Completion of Independent & Group Assignments: Examples of assignments include reflections on articles and videos; evidence of completion of learning modules (e.g. online learning modules developed by NAAEE); an exploration of your bioregion; personal reflection on your practices related to social and emotional learning (SEL) and equitable and inclusive teaching practices; lesson plan review and submission; final community action project presentation planning, presentation, and report.
  • Professional Development: For the 2024-2025 program year, AEOE will offer two complimentary trainings to EECP participants:  
    • UCANR Environmental Stewards: asynchronous, condensed version of the Climate Stewards Program
    • Project WET online training
  • Community Action Project: The program culminates with a community action project that provides a summary of the skills and knowledge gained and positively impacts the candidate’s community. These projects will be presented at the annual statewide conference in the spring or in an online alternate format. A final written report on the action project is submitted as well. 
  • Mentorship: Each participant will be matched with small mentor groups with whom they will meet on a monthly basis virtually to set professional learning goals and discuss the culminating community action project. These groups are led by past participants and leaders with a wide range of experiences. 

Content: The EECP content is based on NAAEE’s Guidelines for Excellence, with supplementary components based on California’s ecology and the diverse needs of our state.

Professional Learning Units

AEOE partners with University of San Diego to offer 9 graduate units upon receipt of certification. These units can be purchased separately. 

Description of a Certified Environmental Educator in California

While environmental educators come with a variety of backgrounds and work in a variety of settings, there is a core set of characteristics that all environmental educators should possess. The requirements of the certification program are designed to assess and ensure that all candidates demonstrate aptitude in the following areas:  

  • Continually strives to improve their skills and knowledge 
  • Has an awareness of significant events in EE history, current and historical environmental issues, and EE resources within the state of California 
  • Teaches and communicates effectively (using research-based best practices) with a diverse audience – for example, with participants who: come from a variety of socio-economic and racial/ethic backgrounds, have a range of experience and comfort in the outdoors, are of varying ages and developmental levels, etc.
  • Exhibits the skills and ability to critically analyze current environmental issues 
  • Distinguishes between education and advocacy
  • Demonstrates leadership, professionalism, and collaboration in the EE community 
  • Takes actionable steps to improve their community

The characteristics of a certified environmental educator were formulated by the EECP Steering Committee and derived in part from the Core Competencies published by the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE).

Click here to learn more about the program, including operational policies such as recertification and reciprocity with other states

 AEOE's Environmental Educator Certification Program is accredited by the North American Association for Environmental Education.


“While enrolled in AEOE’s Environmental Educator Certification Program, our staff developed the skills, experience, and self-confidence needed to use their own voice and creative ideas to help us reach new audiences and bring fresh perspectives to our curriculum. As a small organization this has been an incredibly helpful and cost-effective way to train our staff in contemporary and relevant naturalist techniques and pedagogy.”

– EECP Participant Supervisor

"I learned so much that can be applied to my work and was able to build long lasting networks that I will continue to build."

– EECP Participant

"The personalized, independent, self-designed project was a HUGE part of my positive experience and I think it helps elevate this certificate program to the point of allowing people to harness momentum to improve their respective work places, so the ripple effect is amazing to think about. I also want to acknowledge the work done to make this an equitable experience and encourage folks to continue cultivating patience and grace while striving to always move the cultural norm, little by little."

– EECP Participant

"A lot of the content was so geared toward personal growth as well as professional growth, that I felt kind of blown away by how useful and inspiring I found so much of the material! ... Overall, I feel empowered to be more of a leader in my work and now have a network of people with whom I feel I can easily collaborate."

– EECP Participant


One of the unique components of the program is the small-group mentorship offered to all participants. At the beginning of the program, EECP participants are placed in small groups with a mentor who serves as a leader in the field of EE in California. Participants are involved in the selection process and are paired with a leader who has experiences, knowledge, and connections that will benefit them in their careers. Mentors are carefully selected to include leaders with a range of EE settings, geographic dispersement, and multiple identities (gender, race, ethnicity, etc.). They are leaders who demonstrate professionalism, integrity, and accessibility and strive to be inclusive, encouraging, and respectful of EECP candidates.

Mentors for the 2023-2024 year include:

  • Allison Collins
  • Carli Baker*
  • Ciel Fox Muir*
  • Devin Jackson*
  • Emily Fuentes
  • Gretchen Doering*
  • Heather Bailey*
  • Kris Espiritu
  • Kurt Holland*
  • Lizz Atwood
  • Meg Michel*
  • Miguel Cruz

Many thanks to the following mentors for supporting the program in past years:

  • Candice Dickens-Russell
  • Celeste Royer
  • Chris Whitesides
  • Dennis Mabasa
  • Eaton Dunkelberger
  • Heather Molloy
  • Jennifer Ortega*
  • Kim Hunter
  • Kurt Holland
  • Marie Bobias
  • Nate Ivy
  • Robb Stolberg
  • Robyn Stone
  • Tara Fuad

*EE Certified

If you are interested in serving as a mentor, click here for more information. Please contact AEOE's Executive Director Estrella Risinger with any questions.

EECP Steering Committee

This program would not be possible without the support of the EECP Steering Committee, comprised of individuals from a variety of EE settings who worked for more than two years to develop the program's content and structure. Thank you to the following individuals for offering their time and expertise:

  • Emily Jacobs, National Association for Interpretation
  • Estrella Risinger, NatureBridge
  • Greg Ira, UC California Naturalist
  • Jennifer Ortega, Humboldt State University, NAAEE Guidelines trainer (and EE certificate holder from CO)
  • Reed Schneider, NatureBridge, AEOE Board President & Chair
  • Shannon Gordon, California Department of Education
  • Tracey Weiss, Exploring New Horizons, AEOE Board Vice President

EECP Graduates

Congratulations to California's EE Certification Graduates! We appreciate the participants of the first two inaugural years for contributing their EE expertise and helping us to shape this program. Click here to see a list of California's certified environmental educators, including images of their final action project presentations and links to publicly accessed materials, if applicable.

The 2024-2025 program is supported by funding from the California Coastal Commission’s Whale Tail Grant Program.


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