The Vision of Families in Nature is to inspire all families to fall in love with nature and foster the next generation of conservationists. Our new Ecologist School Curriculum will support that vision by helping youth and adult participants become well versed in ecological principles, competent in the outdoors, and experienced in leadership. Unstructured time in nature is also included and is an essential part of all Families in Nature events. Certification as a Junior Ecologist or Citizen Ecologist requires 30 field science and nature experiences, significant volunteer time, and a final project that is ecologically focused. The Ecologist School Curriculum is a S.T.E.A.M. curriculum, focused on hands-on science experiences.
Ecologists must have an understanding of many different branches of science to comprehend the complexity of an ecosystem. Thus, the Ecologist School Curriculum includes activities in most branches of science as well as outdoor skills, volunteer opportunities, and leadership training. This original curriculum will be released in Fall 2016.
Through participation in Families in Nature, children can work towards certification as Junior Ecologists by mid to late high school age (10th – 12th grade), and adult participants and community members can become Certified Citizen Ecologists.
The Ecologist School Curriculum is broken into the branches of science that are important to an overall understanding of Ecology.
- To earn a patch in one of the branches of science, a child must participate in at least 3 activities in that branch of science.
- To become a Master of that branch, a child or adult must complete at least 5 activities in that branch including at least one volunteer or leadership opportunity. A nature journal must be kept for all activities that are included in Junior and Citizen Ecologist Certification. Their nature journals serve as documentation of what they have learned, as well as a lesson in self-expression.
- Once participants achieve the level of Master in at least 5 branches of science in the ES Curriculum, and they have at least 1 activity in each of 5 other branches of science (for a total of at least 30 experiences), they may begin planning their final project.
- The final project required to become Certified as a Junior or Citizen Ecologist must be an ecologically focused project. The project plan must be approved by FIN staff before beginning. The final project must include a minimum of 50 volunteer hours and must be planned and executed by the high-school aged FIN member.
- Junior Ecologists and Citizen Ecologists will be Certified through Families in Nature AND the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment.
- Junior Ecologist Certification is the Families in Nature equivalent to the Boy Scout Eagle Award, the Girl Scout Gold Award or the Campfire WOHELO Award, and for adults Citizen Ecologist Certification is comparable to Master Naturalist Certification.
- Students wishing to become certified Junior Ecologists are encouraged to volunteer often during their middle and high school years to develop strong leadership skills and deeper knowledge (teaching others always strengthens your own knowledge). Adults seeking certification as Citizen Ecologists should also volunteer often with Families in Nature to achieve certification.
The Ecologist School is an outdoor education program for all Families in Nature participants and volunteers. The curriculum is designed to foster nature connection in toddlers through adult students within the context of family experiences in nature. With only a few exceptions, each adventure can be enjoyed by all ages even though what each family member learns (takes away) may be different.
FIN Ecologists are encouraged to volunteer at Families in Nature events often. Certified Junior Ecologists can apply to be Junior or Senior Interns for Families in Nature to further hone their leadership, outdoor and science skills while giving back to their community. Citizen Ecologists can potentially become FIN volunteers, guides, interns or staff members.