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Program Requirements


Enrollees have four years from their enrollment date to complete the program. Program partcipants can count previous workshops and experiences that meet program requirements up to one year prior to their official enrollment date. Visit our enrollment page for more information on how to get started.

Program At A Glance

We have created a quick “At a Glance” document to help you navigate the certification program. This document is only meant to serve as a quick reference for the program. We encourage you to read the full description of all the program requirements below.

Program Portfolio

This self-paced, experiential program includes six different components. Click on each Criteria for a full description.

1 - Approved Instructional Workshops Criteria I

2 - Outdoor Environmental Education Experiences
Criteria II

3 - Knowledge of Environmental Education Resources and Facilities
Criteria III

4 - Teaching
Criteria IV

5 - Community Partnership Project
Criteria V

6 - Continuing Education in Environmental Education
Criteria VI

Submitting Documentation

Criteria I through III and continuing education credits are documented with an EE Form which can be scanned and emailed to or mailed to the Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs, 1601 MSC, Raleigh, NC 27699-1601. Criteria IV and V submissions are entered directly by you into your online portfolio account which is created when you enroll. If you forget your password, a reminder can be sent to you. Just click "My Account" on our homepage.

We strongly recommend that enrollees keep copies (hardcopy and/or scanned copies) of their EE Forms for their own records. The office does not maintain hard copies of program documentation.

Criteria I - Approved Instructional Workshops - 70 hours

Criteria I Workshops provide educators with the basic knowledge, skills and abilities needed to deliver high-quality environmental education programs to children and adults. They are "train-the-trainer" workshops designed for the professional development of environmental educators who work in both non-formal and formal educational settings and who offer a wide range of programming for all grade levels and for adults. Criteria I workshops go beyond the instruction of nature or science content knowledge and provide participants with teaching skills, methods and resources for educating the public in the classroom, in the outdoors and in nonformal settings such as nature centers, parks and museums.

The following list of workshops and courses has been reviewed and approved by the Environmental Education Certification Committee for completing eligibility criteria for instructional workshops. Although approval of workshops does not hinge on a balanced presentation of alternative points of view, workshop sponsors should, in their presentations, promote informed, objective decision-making. Candidates for North Carolina Environmental Education Certification should consider a variety of experiences that will broaden their range as environmental educators.

A total of 70 hours of instructional workshops is required. Remember that Criteria I workshops must be at least 6 hours long. Shorter or "sampler" versions of these workshops do not count as Criteria I, but may be used in other criteria.

Can facilitator trainings count for Criteria I workshop credit? A program enrollee may count the facilitator trainings for approved Criteria I electives (workshops that train educators to teach Project WET, PLT, FLP, LEP, etc. to others) for Criteria I Instructional Workshop credit. However, if the facilitator workshop is used for credit, the corresponding Criteria I elective cannot be used as well.

The 70 hours of workshops needed to fulfill the Criteria I section may be taken in any order. It is recommended that you attend at least one or two workshops before you attend the Methods of Teaching EE required workshop. NOTE: The Basics of EE is required before you can attend the Methods of Teaching EE (see below).

The following two workshops must be taken by each candidate as part of the 70 hour requirement:

Two Required Criteria I Workshops:

1. Basics of Environmental Education. Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs (10 hours)
An independent Study Course. This workshop is a prerequisite for anyone taking the Methods of Environmental Education. Coursework must be submitted and approved before enrolling in Methods of Teaching EE. Follow this link to the course materials

2. Methods of Teaching Environmental Education. A 10-hour workshop offered three to five times a year at locations around the state. All upcoming dates will be posted on the Office EE Calendar and to the NC-EE Listserv.

Approved Elective Criteria I Workshops:

The remaining 50 hours of Criteria I credit can be earned by taking any of the workshops from this list of approved workshops. Click here to see the complete list of approved elective criteria I workshops.

Please submit your documentation of participating in each workshop on an EE Form, or submit a photocopy of the workshop certificate and attach it to an EE Form.

Note: Elective Criteria I Workshop sponsors are affiliated with an established environmental education facility, organization or agency. Facilitators of Criteria I Workshops model professional standards in the field of environmental education as defined by the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE). NAAEE's Guidelines for the Preparation and Professional Development of Environmental Educators are used as a framework for evaluating workshops submitted for consideration for Criteria I status.

To be eligible for consideration as a Criteria I Workshop, agencies/organizations (sponsors) must submit their workshop by completing the Instructional Workshop Sponsor Information Packet. Go here for more information on how to sponsor a workshop. Note that facilitator trainings for Criteria I workshops cannot be credited as a Criteria 1 workshop. However, facilitator trainings (for PLT, WET, FLP, etc.) can be used for Criteria III or for CE credit.

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canoe hike

Criteria II - Outdoor Instructor-led Experiences - 50 hours

Total of 50 hours of structured outdoor experiences with a maximum of 20 hours per experience.

To qualify as Criteria II, at least 50 percent of the entire event must be spent outdoors. The intent of Criteria II is to introduce environmental educators to skills and outdoor experiences that affect the learner vividly and demand use of all senses. The candidate should participate in a variety of outdoor experiences that are led by qualified instructors (i.e., rangers, guides, teachers, facilitators, professors). The N.C. Office of Environmental Education provides a calendar of statewide events that may qualify for this component. Opportunities include:

  • University/college courses such as ecology, forestry, etc., which include an outdoor lab. (To receive credit, college labs must be reviewed by the certification program managers based on course description, syllabus and proof of completion)
  • Instructional workshops or field trips held in an outdoor environment.
  • Organized nature hikes led by environmental education professional(s) at parks, forests, zoos, aquariums and other Environmental Education Centers.
  • Independent study projects under the direction of an environmental education professional (Must pre-approved by the certification program managers).

    Although some workshops may qualify for both Criteria I: Workshops, and Criteria II: Environmental Education Experiences in the Outdoors, you may apply each workshop towards only one category. To submit documentation, please complete one EE Form per experience. If the EE Form is not signed, please attach a copy of the workshop certificate.

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catawba center

Criteria III - Knowledge of Environmental Education Resources and Facilities - 30 hours

Total of 30 hours with a minimum of one hour and a maximum of 10 hours per experience. (At least 10 hours must be site visits to Environmental Education Centers)

The intent of Criteria III is to increase knowledge of EE resources and facilities and to encourage networking opportunities. These hours can include EE-related workshops, seminars, conferences, lectures, programs, etc. that are held indoors, outdoors or as webinars if they relate directly to EE.

At least 10 hours must be visits to Environmental Education Centers. A site visit consists of a visit to a recognized N.C. Environmental Education Center and should involve activities such as viewing educational exhibits, exploring interpretive trails or gardens and speaking with educational staff. Site visits are not part of workshops but are typically done on your own with the purpose of familarizing yourself with the facility. For example, you may stay after a workshop held at an Environmental Education Center to tour the center on your own time or you may explore a center with your family on a weekend trip.

You must have a total of 10 site visit hours in Criteria III. Five of those hours must be outside of your home region and the remaining five can be in your home region. You can use the online map to help you plan your visits or use the zip code search feature to find Environmental Education Centers near you. You may visit areas outside of N.C., but these cannot count towards your out of region requirement. If you live outside of N.C., you may choose any region.

To submit documentation, please complete one EE Form per experience.

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Criteria IV - Teaching Experiences - 30 hours

Total of 30 hours: Including 20 hours of actual teaching, 10 of which must be conducted outdoors. Up to 10 hours of preparation and/or follow-up time may be counted.

This component recognizes the candidate’s efforts to share with others the knowledge and skills gained through participation in Criteria I, II and III. It also encourages educators to become confident teaching outdoors and to practice using appropriate teaching methods. Your teaching activities should provide hands-on, interactive experiences for the audience and should support the definition of environmental education. Audiences may include students, youth groups such as faith-based groups, scouts or 4-H clubs, and various adult groups. Lessons may be 1 – 6 hours in length, with each lesson taught no more than three times. Please submit documentation for each lesson online through your online account. *Lessons must be minium of one hour up to a maximum of six per lesson.

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Criteria V - Community Partnership Project - 20 hours

Minimum of 20 hours

The Community Partnership Project provides candidates with the opportunity to lead a partnership that will have a positive and lasting effect on the community* and that will increase environmental awareness and understanding.

* A community can be defined as a group of persons with common characteristics such as geographic, professional, cultural, racial, religious or socio-economic similarities; communities can be defined by location, race, ethnicity, age, occupation, interest in particular problems or outcomes, or other common bonds.

It also gives the candidate practical experience applying what they have learned as an environmental educator. This component of the certification process should include the following key elements:

Leadership - you are the primary coordinator, planner and leader of the project.

Partnership - you must work with at least one community partner other than your own school, agency or workplace.

Community Need - you must identify a need that your project will address.

Community Participation - your effort should engage members of a community and produce a project, event or program that will benefit that community and that will increase environmental awareness and understanding.

Relationship to the Objectives of Environmental Education your project should address at least one of the five main objectives of environmental education: awareness, knowledge, attitudes, skills, participation. (Refer to the Tbilisi Declaration in the Basics of EE – Independent Study.)

*Note: While the partnership project can be located at your place of work, it must be a project that that goes beyond your assigned duties, job description and/or work plan. Also, you must initiate and manage the partnership project.

You are required to contact the office before beginning your project to make sure it meets all the program criteria.

Examples of successful Community Partnership Projects:

A parent volunteer learned from teachers at a local elementary school that there was interest in integrating environmental education into their lesson plans using an outdoor area. The parent worked with PTA members and with an environmental educator at a nearby nature center to develop a manual and workshop to help those teachers use their schoolyard as an outdoor classroom. The parent worked with the environmental educator to conduct the workshop for the school’s teachers.

The candidate met with the neighborhood association to identify an environmental need in their community. They determined that the neighborhood had a problem with residents using the storm drains for dumping trash, paint and other polluting substances. The candidate partnered with the neighborhood association to stencil neighborhood storm drains with an educational message and distribute materials to residents explaining the project and its purpose.

The candidate contacted a city park near their home and found out that the park had a trail that needed restoration and signage. The candidate worked with a local Boy Scout troop and the park ranger to restore a section of trails and install interpretive signs at the park. The candidate worked with the local community to publicize the newly restored trails.

For examples of previous community partnership projects, visit the N.C. Certified Environmental Educator Blog.

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Continuing Education

Once educators earn their certification, they are required to complete fifty hours of Continuing Education (CE) every five years in order to maintain an active status within the program. Once submitted and approved, the educator’s certification will be renewed and certification will remain active for the next five years. There are some misconceptions about CE credits, so please read carefully:

What does count: Anything that counts as Certification Program Criteria I or II, or instructor-led seminars, lectures or conference sessions related to EE can be documented towards the 50 hours using an EE Form (with a maximum of 10 hours per experience). If you wish, you may also take workshops, classes, etc. that you took during your EE Certification process use them for CE credit. Some enrollees do this if it has been some time since they last took the workshop or class or if revisions have been made to it.

What doesn't count: Activities that would be considered "site visits" under Criteria III do not count as continuing education credit. Also, teaching or volunteer hours cannot be used--credit hours must be some type of activity in which you received direct instruction or training.

The first five-year renewal cycle begins the day of the individual’s official certification date. For example, if Jane Smith was certified on 1/1/2012, she has until 1/1/2017 to complete her 50 hours of continuing education credits. Her next renewal cycle would begin on 1/1/2017 and end 1/1/2022. These renewal cycles are recorded on the individual's certification account page. Activities must occur after the individual's certification date to be used for CE credit.

Please submit your EE Forms for all continuing education activities by emailing them to or mailing them to the Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs, 1601 MSC, Raleigh, NC 27699-1601.

When you complete the continuing education requirements, your certification will be renewed for another five years. The continuing education requirement must be completed every five years in order to remain active in the program. To view your certification information at any time, click on the “My Account” tab at the top of any Office of EE Web page and then click “My EE Certification status.”

I finished my CE early. Can I start my next renewal hours now? The program does not allow for "banking" of hours toward your next CE cycle. For example, Jane Smith completes her 50 hours in advance of her 1/1/2017 renewal cycle end date. She would not need to submit any more EE Forms until after 1/1/2017. On 1/1/2017, her account will reset and show a "5 Year" CE badge. Then, Jane can submit EE Forms for qualifying experiences she does on or after 1/1/2017 toward her next renewal.

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