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Environmental Leaders of Tomorrow
An Essay by Erin Carroll, Senior at Dickinson College, Environmental Science

Erin Carroll is a Senior at Dickinson College studying Environmental Science. Last year she attended the University of Queensland in Brisbane Australia for a semester and the School for Field Studies in Atenas, Costa Rica for a second semester abroad. While traveling to Australia, New Zealand, Costa Rica and Nicaragua, she fell even more in love with our natural environment, and has since decided to take what she learned and apply it to pursuing a career in environmental education. After returning to the United States, Erin has helped to develop a new sustainable summer camp at the Dickinson College Center for Sustainability (CSE) and is excited to be directing the nature program at Camp Wohelo (Raymond, ME) this summer.

In pursuit of that career in environmental education, Erin recently contacted TeachingGreen about volunteering and offered to share the experience that lead her to environmental education.

Environmental Education: Teaching or Inspiring?

I’m lying on my bed in our hotel in Nicaragua. My knee is killing me from all our walking during our one-week Nicaragua trip. How did I get to this incredible place? We have only been in Nicaragua for a few days, but the effect is profound. The juxtaposition of the beautiful scenery and the shocking poverty is enough to make me stare out the window and think during all our bus rides.
My roommates for the week come in from exploring Granada and we start to talk. We start to think about sustainability issues and how we can fix them. Is policy the answer? Is it individual choice? Is it targeting big businesses? How does poverty play into these decisions?

I have always been concerned with the environment, but until this semester abroad I was never as passionate about the environment as I was in that hotel room. This conversation with my friends led me to my own personal answer: education. I credit my new found passion for the environment to the education I received in Costa Rica: the professors being so passionate and allowing us to see EVERYTHING we talked about in person. It was this education that I received from them that made me start my family composting at home, start reusing instead of recycling, and start telling my friends about all I had seen to make them interested.

I wrote this passage at the end of my three months in Costa Rica to close off my blog:

“What I hope to take home with me: I wish to take back the newer, and I think improved version of myself. I wish to take back a simpler and less material life. I wish to bring back my newly established passion and an ability to educate people in order to improve their view of the world and how to treat it. I wish that everyone learned something from my blog, as I tried to educate you along the way. I wish to spur curiosity and interest and critical thinking in the way we think, live, and treat the environment around us (both people and physical surroundings). And I hope that I continue to grow and learn in the way that SFS allowed me to and that this does not stop after this semester. I wish to make a difference beyond SFS and to continue to talk to the staff and students here that have made me who I am now.”

I am not saying you need to go to Costa Rica to fall in love with the environment. But once you find a mentor or teacher with the capabilities to inspire you, it is inescapable. My biggest accomplishment to date is telling 6-12 year old campers about my travels, the plants I saw, the animals, and all sixty of the campers listening to my every word and asking me questions and wanting to talk about it. It was my glimpse into being that inspiration to care about nature.