Free Environmental Courses for Educators – Content and Teaching Methodology

Being an educator who is heavily inclined towards using meaningful EdTech in my online and offline classroom, It came very naturally for me to search for online professional development. What I didn’t expect is to find plenty of quality free environmental courses for educators! I love most about the many courses listed below because they can also be taken by students and used as materials for debates, research, or projects! Also, enrolling students in the interactive online learning process can be an authentic experience. Finally, all of the courses below are research-based and created by prominent organizations or universities.

Enjoy the list and create your 365 days of environmental education professional development with these 43 courses!

These environmental courses for educators are separated based on these criteria:

  • Free with certificate;
  • With certificate – environmental content courses (free);
  • Free, without certificate;
  • Paid, affordable courses.

The best free courses that changed my whole perspective on teaching and life come from National Geographic. These courses had the perfect balance of content and teaching methods, and the educator community is truly outstanding.

National Geographic environmental courses for educators

  1. National Geographic Educator Certification – This one is by far the best of all environmental courses for educators I’ve ever completed! We were required to develop a lesson plan, collaborate, teach the lesson, and submit a full lesson plan, along with a multimedia video reflection. The educators will have to use the interdisciplinary approach and teach about the word in innovative ways, while also collaborating with other educators. Unlike the other courses, where the submissions are evaluated by peers, this course offers a mentor! For more information and steps of theNational Geographic Certified Educator course, read this post. Take a look at my video reflection if you want to see a sample video reflection.
  2. Collecting Data to Explore Plastic Pollution in Our Communities  This is a new course, and I plan on completing it in 2020, so I will share the short information provided on the website: Follow National Geographic Explorers in the Sea to Source and Mount Everest Expeditions as they carefully collect data to track plastic pollution in the Ganges River and document climate change in Mount Everest. Hone your skills in guiding your students to design and select data collection methods that explore problems in their communities.
  3. Teaching Global Climate Change in Your Classroom – This course was also amazing, and it presented plenty of innovative ways to visualize the changing climate with our students. I am using the lesson plans I created here in my thesis. You will be required to review other participant’s work and act as a peer-teacher. This course was amazing because it provided me with a lot of content knowledge and tools to understand and teach all the aspects of global climate change.
  4. Connecting the Geo-Inquiry Process to Your Teaching Practice – The Geo-Inquiry process encourages students to ask questions, collect data, and create stories that inspire others to take action. All of these skills are promoted through the Geo-Inquiry, and the participants will be able to create their own project, get a 70+ page long ebook with plenty of ideas, and also get evaluated by other participants.
  5. Integrating Service With Learning Goals – The last course I plan on completing at the end of 2020 or at the beginning of 2021. Here is what the website says: Curiosity and compassion drive National Geographic Explorers to the ends of Earth as they seek solutions to our trickiest problems. Empower your students to take action in their own communities as they meet curriculum goals.

National Geographic Conservation Courses

The following six environmental courses are about exploring conservation, and they are for everyone, not just educators. They are not connected to environmental education specifically, but they can be used in many ways. For example, If I were a high school teacher, I would use the courses and even make my students enroll and do a whole project around it. The main goal of these courses is to empower any individual to take action in any biodiversity conservation, and course number five offers practical steps on actual conservation project planning. I’ve only had the time to start the first course, but I can definitely say that the quality of the courses is truly outstanding.

Your journey to conservation can start with…
  1. Introduction to Conservation – I am halfway through completing the first one and I am really empowered to start my own conservation/education project and make it a part of my Ph.D.! There are plenty of amazing videos and a lot of experienced researchers who share the basic concepts of conservation.
  2. Prioritizing Species and Spaces – Explore the biodiversity that makes up our planet and learn about why saving these species and spaces is vital for preserving our planet as we know it.
  3. Understanding the Illegal Wildlife Trade – Explore the implications of illegal wildlife trade as well as the causes and impacts it has on wildlife. 
  4. Ocean Challenges and Solutions – Explore how human activities are impacting our ocean’s ecosystem. 
  5. Conservation Project Planning – Explore how to plan and implement an effective conservation project. 
  6. Scientific Expeditions for Conservation –  Explore how to plan an expedition and learn how they can contribute to advances in conservation. 

Courses for educators with free certificates – teaching methodology courses and skills development

To move away from National Geographic, I will share the courses I found on other websites. All of the courses on the Open University offer more reading than videos, but the quality is still great since everything is research-based.

  1. The Environmental Aspect of Teaching and Learning – What is the impact of teaching and learning on the environment in Higher Education? This course shares innovative tools and materials created to help in assessment and identification. The final goal would be to reduce these impacts.
  2. Nature Matters: Systems Thinking– Explore conceptual tools for assisting your thinking and deliberation on what matters when it comes to nature. The notion of ‘framing’ nature is introduced to help the participants develop systems thinking.
  3. Nature Matters: Caring and Accountability – Have you considered environmental responsibility? What may matter from a caring perspective and an accountability perspective? This course can help you and your students visually distinguish caring and accountability.
  4. Introducing Environmental Decision Making– Paying attention to environmental factors in decision making can be quite complex and challenging. This course considers decisions in their broader contexts and presents a systems approach to environmental decision making.
  5. Valuing nature: Should we Put a Price on Ecosystems? – Discover the many ways that we benefit from the natural world through ecosystem services. If we value nature, should we put a price on ecosystems? Usually, to get a certificate for this course you need to upgrade and pay, but this one offers a free upgrade once you finish it. This means that you can get a certificate of completion from the University of Exeter.
  6. iSpot: Sharing Nature -After this course, you will be able to engage with the local natural environment and take part in observing nature. You will understand more about classification in the natural world by communicating with a wider community. Finally, you will use ICT to record any findings.
  7. Citizen Science Projects: How to Make a Difference – Discover how to build your citizen science project to address environmental issues and create positive change. Usually, to get a certificate for this course you need to upgrade and pay, but this one offers a free upgrade once you finish it, which means that you can get a certificate of completion from the University of Dundee.
  8. Neighborhood Nature – Nature exists everywhere, even in your small community. This course will help you learn how to observe, identify, and record the wildlife around you.
  9. Modeling Pollution in the Great Lakes – Modelling in pollution is crucial when it comes to pinpointing causes and effects. I love scientific modeling, and I used it in the National Geographic course – Teaching the global climate change in your classroom. This course will help you create simple models and identify the simplifying assumptions that underpin a model.

Now that we presented the first 10 environmental courses for educators focused on teaching methodology, we can pose a question:

Is the understanding of fundamental environmental concepts important for all educators?

Before even teaching about environmental protection and issues, we must focus on learning the elementary concepts of the world around us. We do not have to be Biology or Geography teachers and study the content in detail. Still, we need to know things about our environment to understand the full impact of environmental issues. Knowledge about the world around us is crucial if we aim to awaken true environmental awareness in our students. We cannot empower the younger generations to protect something they do not cherish.

Courses for educators with free certificates – content courses:

  1. An Introduction to Sustainable Energy – This introduction to sustainable energy presents ways of acquiring more clean energy. What is the solution: cleaner use of fossil fuels or renewable energy sources?
  2. Can Renewable Energy Sources Power the World? – Which environmental concerns caused a rise in interest in renewable energy production? The course continues by looking at each of the main renewable energy technologies and the contributions they might make to global energy demand. The most important part of this course is that it analyzes scenarios where a combination of renewable energy resources creates enough sustainable energy. This environmental course for educators also offers a digital badge upon completion.
  3. Biofuels – What are biofuels? Are they more sustainable than fossil fuels? How can we creat them? Do they present a future of clean energy? Join this course to find out!
  4. Understanding Deep Geothermal Energy – What is geothermal energy? Can geothermal energy help in global energy production fast enough to stop global warming?
  5. Energy resources: Tidal Energy Can tidal energy make any contribution to the world’s energy supplies? Join this course and learn about the unexplored power of the ocean tides and the possibility to use them as energy resources.
  6. Fishing: Can it be Sustainably Managed? – Are there any management techniques that can be applied in a quest to achieve a sustainable fishing process? What are the historical, economic, social, political, and geographical factors that shaped the UK fishing industry?
  7. Global Water Resources – The way we use water today will determine if we will have enough water sources in the future. There are already places on Earth with water scarcity, so various decisions will have to be made if we wish to survive in the future world of rapid global climate change.
  8. Tipping Points: Climate Change and Society – Discover how rapid changes to natural systems may make Earth look very different in the future. Usually, to get a certificate for this course you need to upgrade and pay, but this one offers a free upgrade once you finish it, which means that you can get a certificate of completion from the University of Exeter.
  9. Social Issues and GM Crops – Finally, a course about the genetic manipulation of plants and animals. Why is the use in agriculture still one of the most controversial scientific developments? This course will take you behind the research to present the complex connections between actual science and social perceptions.

Environmental protection & sustainability courses – free, no certificate:

  1. Sustainability in Everyday Life – This course will help you develop skills and acquire information needed to make sustainable choices in everyday life related to food, energy, and lifestyle choices.
  2. Sustainable Tourism: Rethinking the future – To develop a more sustainable tourism practice, we need to reinvent traveling and reimagine practices to build alternative futures. This can be useful to teenagers and educators who wish to travel greener.
  3. Co-Creating Sustainable Cities –  Learn how citizen’s co-creation is key in making cities worldwide more sustainable. By creating sustainable networks, we can get more out of sustainable communities.
  4. The Health Effects of Climate Change – We often forget that climate change has a dreadful effect on humans too. This course will present how global warming impacts human health, and the ways we can diminish those impacts.
  5. How to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals – A holistic view of how the ocean functions and how human interactions with the ocean can be understood. The course focuses on the oceans and how can we achieve sustainable development goals in this area.
  6. Why Move Towards Cleaner Power – The course shares reasons for moving towards cleaner power, and it also gives the participants tools they need to present arguments in favor of a cleaner power sector in their part of the world. This is an amazing course if you want to promote debate in your class.
  7. Waste Management and Critical Raw Materials – After presenting basic information about waste management and raw materials, this course focuses on the circular economy, recycling, refurbishment, and remanufacturing as means of identifying new business opportunities.
  8. Feeding a Hungry Planet: Agriculture, Nutrition, and Sustainability – What does sustainability mean in terms of food? How can we develop sustainable food sources which could cater to constant population growth?
  9. Upcycling: From Green Ideas to Starting a Business – What is upcycling? How can we connect it to sustainable development? How can we start a business from upcycling?
  10. Circular Economy for a Sustainable Built Environment – What are the principles of circular economy? How can they impact building sustainable buildings and communities? 
  11. Drawing Nature, Science, and Culture – I am in love with this course, and I started it a few days ago. The goal of this course is to develop visual and observational skills in participants so that they can illustrate nature as professionals.

Affordable paid courses:

Despite this being a post dedicated to free environmental courses for educators, I still have to add some courses I liked because I believe they are worth the investment.

Project Learning Tree Courses PLT currently offers several online courses:

I haven’t taken these courses since I plan to complete some free courses first. Still, the syllabuses look very good, and I’m certain they can help any teacher develop environmental awareness in their students.

  • Focus on learning outcomes important to today’s educators
  • Authentic tasks and project-based learning, including modeling activities and lesson planning
  • Easy-to-use content focused on planning and preparation
  • Connections to resources such as relevant online tools, supplemental content, and local and state resources
  • Videos of educators modeling PLT activities and tips for how to adapt activities for your students and context
  • Interactive simulations demonstrating key concepts in PLT activities (available in the K-8 online workshop)
  • Interaction with the instructor, with clearly articulated expectations for completing the course (Taken from the website.)

Environmental Education Outcomes Online Course – Suggested donation 60$ – Participants in this course will explore different environmental education goals and methods for reaching those goals effectively. You can offer a donation to join this course, and they have other courses, which are not open at the moment. You will get a lot of interactive tasks, webinars, and a certificate. Make sure to sign up for the newsletter to get more information about their other courses.

Language Teaching for the Planet – 15$ – The course teaches English learners to talk confidently and persuasively on environmental issues to bring about change. A fellow teacher creates this course and based on the testimonials of other educators. It seems great. The structure resembles the National Geographic courses, and the level of interactivity between participants is high, which is another plus. Finally, the participants must make a lesson plan/activity, which is something I appreciate in any course.

To conclude

I sincerely hope this post with environmental courses will empower educators to develop their knowledge and skills further and make their curriculum more sustainable. Take your time, join courses that got your attention, and keep developing your practice!

Article originally published on: ELT FOOTPRINT

Do you have any sustainable goals you want to achieve in 2020 in your classroom? How about sustainable goals in your own home or community? Do you believe that these online environmental courses for educators can change your perspective on teaching? Please write in the comments. I would love to hear from you!

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