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I am Passionate about Environmental Education: Should I get a Masters Degree?

A virus cell jumps from an animal to a human. Four months later, millions of people are sick, tens of thousands have passed away, and hundreds of millions have lost their jobs. COVID-19 is a powerful lesson in the central idea of environmental education: "everything is connected to everything."

Are you inspired by communicating this idea? Do you want a career promoting environmental literacy? As kids have less and less opportunity for free-play in nature, and with screen time dominating their lives, the need for environmental education has become more critical than ever. The world needs people committed to bringing the lessons of nature-- about fundamental interconnectedness, independent inquiry, and character-- to children otherwise left behind. 

Three years ago, the Center for Environmental Policy at Bard College launched a new Masters of Education in Environmental Education degree. Our purpose is to change minds. We are training a generation of leaders who will build out the in-school, after-school, summer, farm, NGO, science center and museum education and programming that we need to engage today's young people with the core ideas of ecology and outdoor education, in both rural and urban settings.  

Why a Masters Degree? Bard's M Ed supports graduates to move beyond the role of front-line environmental educator, to step into leadership positions in environmental education organizations. How do you design effective curriculum, build programming, raise money, and scale opportunities to reach more and more young people? And how do you build a professional career in a field dominated by small non-profit providers?

Graduate school is not for everybody. But in this terrible economy, it can be the right place to to get tooled up to make a difference in the world, soon. Beyond Covid 19, sustainability challenges-- from climate change to safe water access-- need your leadership.

The key to a good graduate program? Experience-based education. Sustainability is a problem-solving discipline, and cannot be learned primarily in the classroom. Especially if you are coming right out of undergrad, make sure your graduate program embeds serious opportunities to gain experience and build your resume directly into the educational program, not as one or two month “bolt-ons”. Otherwise, you can just wind up taking two or three years of courses, which will have little value to future employers.

At Bard’s Graduate Programs in Sustainability, experience takes center stage in our graduate education. In our M.Ed. in Environmental Education, all of our students complete a 4 to 6-month, high-level professional internship, working at least 30 hours a week. From June to January of the second year, our students scatter across the planet to do this internship work, which then becomes the foundation for their Master’s capstone project. Here and here and here are examples from this past year. The entire second year of the program thus has a focus on hands-on problem solving. In the first year, we require a January term focused on Outdoor and Place-Based education.

Beyond integrated experience-based learning, Bard's graduate programs are small by design, featuring unparallelled engagement with world-class faculty. In these challenging times, we are delivering a high-touch graduate education that focuses on individual learning and individual career development and support. 

For more information, please contact the Director of the Center for Environmental Policy, Eban Goodstein, ebangood@bard.edu.

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About the Author

Eban Goodstein

Eban Goodstein

Dr. Eban Goodstein is an economist and the Director of the MBA in Sustainability and the MS and MEd programs at the Center for Environmental Policy at Bard College. He is known for organizing national educational initiatives on climate change, which have engaged thousands of schools and universities, civic institutions, faith groups, and community organizations in solutions-driven dialogue. Goodstein is the author of three books and numerous journal articles focused on climate change, sustainability and green jobs.