Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Environmental Education at
Huxley College of the Environment
Western Washington University
Overview | Philosophy | Choosing an Option | Program Cost |Coursework | Faculty | Graduate Employment
Application and Admission | Governance | Information for admitted and enrolled students | links
The central goal of the Master of Education in Environmental Education program is to develop leaders in environmental education. One option, the residency, emphasizes the non-profit sector of the field, while the other option, based on Western’s campus, addresses a wider scope of needs and opportunities. All students share a core of academic courses and use the extensive resources of Huxley College of the Environment, Western Washington University, and the rich environmental education community of the region. Residency option students spend one year at the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center under the supervision of both College faculty and North Cascades Institute staff. Campus-based students select courses from the WWU catalog and undertake a Field Project or Thesis under the direction of College faculty.
Greeting from the Dean of Huxley College, Prof. Brad Smith
Environmental education has been a part of Huxley College since the College was founded in 1970, and our M.Ed. graduate program began in 1990. The M.Ed. program expanded in 2001 with our new Residency option. Close to 100 students have earned degrees through these programs, and we are very proud of their accomplishments. We attract high-caliber students from across the continent who bring diverse backgrounds, experience in education, and a passion for helping the environment and helping people at the same time. Environmental education has many guises today, but whatever form it takes high quality is indispensable. Huxley College offers outstanding resources for you, and I am excited to have a hand in preparing the next generation of leaders in this essential environmental profession. Welcome to our webpage and programs!
The Huxley College approach to educating about the environment is inclusive. We believe that natural science lies at the core of the field, for a measure of scientific knowledge is necessary to understand environmental issues and problems and possible solutions to them. Yet while science is necessary, it is not sufficient to address this set of challenges. The underlying causes of environmental difficulties are social and cultural, lying deeply in the realm of values and perceptions of humans and nature. Thus environmental literacy demands interdisciplinary understanding of the nature of nature and how humans impact that nature. It also requires understanding of politics, economics, and other social sciences that are instrumental in applying knowledge gained about nature to the processes of human decision-making. And as educators, a special set of skills is needed to work effectively as a well-grounded, versatile, and effective teacher. Graduate students in environmental education may start from widely different foundations, but in the course of their studies they will broaden and deepen their understanding of what learning is necessary for people to engage constructively in environmental problem-solving. Graduate work in these programs calls upon the student to take a high level or responsibility for their education, working closely with faculty to make the best use of the excellent resources available. They will graduate with a firm basis from which to develop careers that will contribute to effective environmental stewardship and sustainability.
Choosing an option
If a student decides Western Washington University is the right academic institution for their graduate study in environmental education, then how does one choose between the two options?
The residency is focused closely on one sector of the field – the non-profit sector – and it aims at helping the student to become a leader and administrator of environmental education programs in that sector. Coursework in the residency program is prescribed. Students live off-campus, in a remote location, and are immersed in a single program, for one year. The program is continuous for seven quarters, and participants are part of a cohort of learners that come to know each other very well. Work in the residency program is individualized in terms of the topics of several projects for courses or under the supervision of NCI faculty (i.e., natural history project, curriculum project, leadership project, non-profit design project, etc.) At the end of their program, they earn not only a Masters degree from Western Washington University, but are also rewarded a Certificate in Non-profit Administration and Leadership from NCI. They are prepared with academic knowledge and such practical skills as facility and personnel management, budgeting, and fund-raising to enter the world of environmental learning centers, nature centers, outdoor education centers and other non-profits.
Please consult the North Cascades Institutes pages on the Residency option.
For profiles of current and past residency students, click here
The campus-based option is not as prescribed and thus allows students to choose a range of directions. Some who choose the campus-based option are already in jobs for which they need additional training (e.g., an M.Ed. as an advanced teaching credential), and go back to those jobs. Some are certified classroom teachers who aim to strengthen their knowledge of environmental education and return to the classroom. Some have very specific ideas about their future (as in “I want to promote schoolyard gardening as a vehicle for EE,” or “I want to use adventure-based programs to encourage environmental literacy and responsibility”) and use the campus-based option as a step in that specific career goal. The campus-based option requires individualized elective course work and a thesis or field project -- a major research or applied undertaking under the close supervision of a Western faculty committee.
For a sampling of completed Field Project titles by campus-based graduates, click here.
For profiles of current and past campus-based students, click here
In the end, the decision comes down to a choice between a prescribed curriculum involving a partnership with a leading EE non-profit and conducted substantially away from the Western campus, versus a less-prescribed, more coursework-based program that occurs on Western’s campus. The mentors in the residency option include professional staff from outside the University (the North Cascades Institute staff) while those of the campus-based option are primarily or even exclusively university-based. Enrollment in the residency option is for seven straight quarters starting in the summer, while campus-based students typically enroll for 3 to 5 quarters, then complete their thesis or field project without continuous enrollment (enrollment in the final quarter, or the quarter prior to completion is required by the WWU Graduate School).
Neither of these M.Ed. options leads to teacher certification. Some students come with teacher certification already, and return to the classroom, but many of our students choose to work outside the formal K-12 education system, which may not require teacher certification. if a student does not have teacher certification and wants to teach in the K-12 school system, however, WWU does also house Woodring College of Education, which offers Washington State teacher credential options. Separate application to Woodring is required. We strongly recommend against attempting to complete the M.Ed. in EE and teacher certification simultaneously.
Program cost is another factor in choosing an option. The residency option involves two organizations. Both charge the student for services. The campus-based option involves only the University. The North Cascades Institute fee for the residency portion of the program is $15,850. This fee is in addition to tuition charged by the University for its instruction, but includes housing for the year of residency, and some board. The campus-based option is somewhat less expensive than the residency option, though precisely how much depends on several factors such as how quickly the campus-based student completes his or her program or whether the student is a resident or non-resident of Washington State. Western's Financial Aid office is available to help any of the M.Ed. Graduate students. Financial aid is also available from the North Cascades Institute to help offset the additional cost of the residency option. Applicants who submit all of their application materials by January 15th will receive a $500 residency fee discount, which will be applied in the final quarter of the residency. North Cascades Institute also offers a limited number of scholarships ranging from $500 to $2000.
For more information on cost and financial aid, click here.
All students in the M.Ed. share a common core of coursework, which students in both options take together. These courses are:
ESTU 571 Environmental Education Foundations
ESTU 575 Assessment, Evaluation and Research in Environmental Education
ESTU 587 Conservation Psychology
ESTU 588 Language, Discourse, and Environment
ESTU 589 Curriculum in Environmental Education
Students opting for the campus-based approach select a menu of electives from the graduate offerings of the University to round out their coursework, and must complete a Field Project or Thesis. WWU general course catalog.
Students opting for the Residency approach must complete a menu of additional required courses. The courses are taught in the field and at the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center in the North Cascades National Park Complex. These courses are:
ESTU 572 Introduction to Place-based Environmental Education
ESTU 573 Resource Issues in the North Cascades
ESTU 574 Cultural Studies of the North Cascades
ESTU 575 Natural History and Science of the North Cascades
ESTU 577 Non-Profit Administration for Environmental Educators
ESTU 578 Practicum in Teaching Natural and Cultural History
ESTU 581 Professional Writing and Presentation
For descriptions of all the courses for the Residency option, click here.
The residency is a non-thesis graduate degree. All such degrees must administer a comprehensive examination, which residency students complete in the final quarter of their enrollment.
Graduates of the program (the campus option has been offered since 1990, the residency since 2001) have realized the program goal of leadership. They hold such titles as EE specialist, program director, restoration education coordinator, science programs coordinator, education programs director, and naturalist. Many have become classroom teachers, or returned to the classroom. Collectively program graduates are developing place-based and environmental education in the broad educational world of the Pacific Northwest and throughout the United States.
For a sampling of positions held by graduates of the M.Ed. click here.
All students work with the core WWU environmental education faculty. John Miles is the overall program advisor for the M.Ed. in EE. Sometimes other Huxley College faculty members may be appropriate advisors for campus-based students (providing such faculty are members of the graduate faculty), and other WWU faculty are important potential resources for all M.Ed. students. Residency students work closely with NCI program staff during the residency.
Application and Admission Information
All students must apply via WWU's Graduate School. The application requires that you submit results from Graduate Record Examination or the Miller Analogies Test; schedule a test date as soon as possible. For Residency students, an additional application to NCI is required (both this and the WWU information may be requested from NCI, via their website). In general, stronger applications demonstrate not only academic achievement and potential, but also career or life experiences that demonstrate the the applicant has made a clear and considered commitment to environmental education. Students should also be aware of the separate deadline for financial aid application, as discussed on the financial aid link above.
Information for admitted and enrolled students
2010-2011 Graduate Handbook (PDF)
Guidelines for Thesis or Field Project can be down-loaded here
The M.Ed. in Environmental Education programs are governed by their own Graduate Program Committee within Huxley College. The committee includes core faculty including the program advisor, NCI staff, and student representatives, and meets regularly through the year. Operating under the larger organization of academic affairs at WWU (which includes the Washington State Higher Education Coordinating Board, the WWU President and Provost, the Faculty Senate, the Academic Coordinating Commission, the Graduate School Council, and Huxley College and its Bylaws), the committee passes specific policies and takes actions required for the smooth running of the M.Ed. program.
Western Washington University
Huxley College of the Environment
Graduate School of Western Washington University
The City of Bellingham
North Cascades National Park
North American Association for Environmental Education
Environmental Education Association of Washington