Environmental education as a policy
Looking out over the acres of peat bogs
and woods at Sunkhaze Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in Milford,
Maine, University of Maine senior Julia McGuire sees lessons in
environmental education just waiting to be written for schoolchildren.
The ecology and environmental sciences honors student is developing a
winter ecology curriculum for Sunkhaze as her honors thesis. She is
studying whether environmental education, namely the community's
knowledge about and use of the refuge, can affect policy. Her goal is to
offer educational lessons that can be incorporated into classrooms,
"developing outreach and support in the community from the bottom up."
McGuire has spent the past year conducting research about the status of
national wildlife refuge educational outreach efforts in Maine, and
studying Spanish and tropical ecology in Costa Rica. She was recently
named one of 81 Morris K. Udall Foundation Scholars for her outstanding
potential and commitment to pursuing a career related to the
McGuire traces her interest in environmental education to a nature camp
she attended as a youngster near her home in Augusta, Maine. When she
was too old to participate as a camper, McGuire volunteered and later
worked to help with the nature-oriented lessons.
At UMaine, McGuire discovered that a degree in ecology and environmental
sciences, coupled with a Spanish minor and honors coursework, gave her a
breadth of academic experience that informs her research in
environmental education. In addition, she has taken advantage of other
learning opportunities at the university.
Last year as a Margaret Chase Smith Public Affairs Scholar, McGuire
surveyed Maine's national wildlife refuges to better understand the
status of their educational programming. Of the eight areas she
contacted, McGuire found limited or no resources available to devote to
"Environmental education raises more awareness, helping to create a bond
between the refuge and surrounding communities," says McGuire. "National
refuges are wonderful resources that need to be tapped."
In Heredia, Costa Rica last semester, McGuire studied tropical ecology
and Spanish. In particular, she learned about environmental education
programs that involve teacher training and classroom curricula. "The
environmental education made applicable to students' lives was an
inspiration for me," she says. "It would be a great experience to work
in Latin America."
Study Abroad was an important part of her college experience. "I'm
interested in a world perspective, a global base of knowledge," McGuire
says. "We live in a really big world, but everything is so
interconnected. Policies in the United States can affect others in the
world. It's important to understand their perspectives."
This past summer, McGuire had an internship with Planning Decisions in
Hallowell, Maine, helping create a database of information on property
ownership in the state's unorganized townships. The data, including
private/public ownership and seasonal/year-round status, will help state
land use planners better understand shifts in property ownership in
those areas in the past decade.
"It's interesting to see what's going on in our state," she says,
especially in light of recent proposals to develop some of Maine's North
McGuire is headed to graduate school to study environmental policy and
management. "I'm interested in environmental education and its use as a
policy tool," she says.