Environmental Education Director Takes Her Next Steps

Environmental EducatorsWhen Cindy Thomashow, née Batterson, first came to Antioch New England as a student in 1977, she could hardly have anticipated that she’d still be here decades later, director of a nationally renowned program, beloved by students and faculty alike. Now she’s leaving the directorship of the Environmental Education program, which she’s run since 1983, and many in the community have expressed their deep appreciation.

Tom Wessels, core faculty in the Department of Environmental Studies, says, “Cindy is the longest serving program director we have ever had in the department. She molded the Environmental Education program into one of the premier graduate programs in environmental education in the country.”

Jimmy Karlan was hired in 1998 as director of the Science Teacher Certification program, which was split out of the Environmental Education program. He says that “Cindy is a visionary. She has created global access to powerful environmental education. She has spread the field of environmental interpretation to subways, supermarkets, zoos, and golf courses.”

In 1999, Cindy became the associate director, and is now director, of CEE Online which, according to its website, is a “dynamic resource for educators and students, founded by Jayni and Chevy Chase.” CEE (Center for Environmental Education) provides many innovative services, including curriculum reviews, and Ask and Environmental Educator, which allows educators to ask specific questions and get answers from an expert within a few days. Cindy plans to continue directing the center.

A large gathering assembled in early December to honor Cindy and pay tribute to her long ANE career. Cindy and Mitch sat at the center table with Jayni Chase and other friends and colleagues. Faculty, staff, current students, and alumni were on hand to speak, read poems, sing songs, and play Jimmy Karlan’s “Who Know Cindy Best” game.

QuiltCindy was presented with varied gifts, from one of Ty Minton’s bells, to a handmade quilt, to one of the benches made by the “Butterfly Group,” a group of grateful alumni women, three of whom were on hand to present it.

As Jimmy put it, “Her farewell dinner was a testimonial to the depth to which she has touched her students’ personal and professional lives.” Tom agrees: “Probably the most important testament for Cindy is the love, loyalty, and respect her students have for her.”

Although Cindy is leaving her full-time position at ANE so as not to have to commute so much from her new home in Unity, Maine, where Mitch has taken the post of president of Unity College, she will continue to teach exhibit design as ANE adjunct faculty. She also plans to become involved in environmental education at Unity.

Cindy is continuing work on developing immersive practicum programs in collaboration with the Sargent Center in Massachusetts, and with the Teton Science Schools in Wyoming. She says, “Students will learn outdoor curriculum design, the interface between formal and non-formal educational practice, and the management/administration of programs that are field based.”

Finally, Cindy is working on a book, the working title of which she (jokingly) says is Dented Helmets: How Many Times Do You Have to Run Your Head Into a Brick Wall? The book will be about how “conceptual meaning-making processes can be better integrated into environmental education practices to insure ecological identity development and conceptual integration that supports behavior change.” She sees the need for this book because of the “significant gap between people knowing that environmental problems exist and the willingness to change behavior to do something about them.” Her time here has certainly shaped the way she sees this problem. She adds, “I think that the transformational quality of Antioch’s approach to education helps shrink the gap.”

What is obvious to many is just how much it has been Cindy Thomashow who has shaped the Antioch New England approach.