Environmental Education Since COVID-19: Program Policies and Resources

Navigating the Environmental Education Certification Program in the "New Normal" 

Extended Time (If Needed)

Due to closures, delays and shifts to online professional development that occurred early on during the COVID-19 pandemic, the N.C. Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs is granting individual extensions to those who were actively enrolled in the program, if needed. Enrollees who feel their completion schedule was impacted by COVID-19 should contact the EE Certification Program Managers for more information. This also applies to the Community Partnership Project timelines and the teaching requirement. Those already EE Certified are encouraged to stay within their CE Cycles if possible, as all CE hours can be done online. 

Increased Flexibility, and Remote, Hybrid and Independent Study Options

The COVID-19 pandemic also gave rise to innovations and restructuring of Criteria I, II and III options. While many live and face-to-face professional development opportunities and conferences have returned, the Office recognizes the need for continued flexibility to meet the needs of program participants. 

Criteria II. Independent study and remote Criteria II options are allowed in the program. Several providers now offer remote and supervised independent study Criteria II options. Follow the NC-EE listserv, the calendar and the COVID-19 Educator Support database for opportunities.  Please email the EE Certification Program Managers for approval before starting your own independent study Criteria II or before offering a remote or supervised independent study Criteria II experience to the public. 

Criteria III and Continuing Education. Note that webinars and online courses related to environmental education have always been eligible for Criteria III and CE. Please provide an EE Form and documentation of completion if possible. If you cannot attach an EE Form, please clearly note the title of the experience, the date, hour(s) and give a brief description of the experience in your email to eecertificationnc@lists.ncmail.net.

Virtual Site Visits. During the COVID-19 state of emergency, the program accepted remote site visits, using virtual tours that offered by some parks, forests, gardens, arboretums, nature centers and museums. While we encourage actual visits, the program will still accept some virtual visits if needed by the participant. Another source is the NC360 site that offers several virtual tours of state parks, the NC Zoo, the Aquarium on Roanoke Island, and the NC Museum of Art Park.

Criteria I. The pandemic also resulted in increased awareness of available online Criteria I options, and encouraged the development of new ones. 

The Basics of Environmental Education is a required independent study workshop that offers 10 hours of Criteria I. 

It’s Our Water also has a free online version eligible for Criteria I. Contact Lauren.Daniel@ncdenr.gov if you have questions or to register.

We will also continue to accept the online versions of Project Learning Tree K-8 and Project Learning Tree Environmental Education for Early Childhood for Criteria I credit, even if you have taken the regular 6-10 hour PLT K-8 and/or PLT Environmental Education for Early Childhood workshops previously. If you have not taken the face-to-face versions, you will be allowed to retain the online credits even if you take the face-to-face versions later. The program is also temporarily crediting the PLT GreenSchools Online Course as Criteria I.

Intro to Air Quality for Educators This is a free, online experience that combines the North Carolina Division of Air Quality’s existing criteria one workshops. It pulls activities and materials from the in-person workshops for educators: Introduction To Air Quality, It’s Our Air, and Ground Level Ozone: Advanced Air Quality. Anyone enrolled in EE Certification can take this for credit, even if you have already taken any of the face-to-face workshops.  

Online NAAEE Guidelines for Excellence Workshops The Environmental Educators of North Carolina is now offering virtual workshops based on the North American Association for Environmental Education Guidelines for Excellence. These 6-hour workshops include a combination of live group calls and independent online work.  You can take multiple Guidelines workshops in person or online, so long as the workshops focus on a different set of guidelines. Keep a watch on the NC-EE listserv or visit www.eenc.org/events to find upcoming workshops. 

Remote Versions of Existing Criteria Is. Some Criteria I workshop providers now offer remote versions of existing Criteria Is that cover the same content through a combination of online instruction, homework assignments and documented outdoor independent study. Keep a check on the NC-EE listserv and the NC Office of Environmental Education calendar for opportunities. Examples so far have included online, interactive versions of Project Learning Tree and the Leopold Education Project, and others.

Educator Support Database

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, N.C. Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs added a search feature that provides online and remote professional development options for environmental educators, EE program managers, EE Center professionals and teachers. This useful feature will remain in place, as it still provides useful resources for online learning.  

It also includes easy-to-access and integrate remote learning resources for parents, caregivers and classroom teachers. Go to our resource database and under "Resource Type" select "COVID-19 Education Support." Press enter or tap the orange search button on the bottom right. Note that we have also recently added "Virtual K-12 Outreach Programs" (live speakers or live virtual field trips for specific classes or educational groups) and "Online K-12 Videos and Lessons" as resource type search options.