Jennifer Watt, MS '00Environmental Education
A Passion for the Planet Drives Educator
Jen had been cultivating her lifelong passions for the outdoors and teaching against the incredible backdrop of Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula. There she co-founded Outdoor Edge, an organization specializing in short-term immersion and adventure-based programs. Over the years I developed an insatiable appetite to pursue science seriously. I realized that without formal studies and mentorship in this field, I wouldn’t be able to reach higher in my career or achieve my life’s goals.
Jen felt traditional graduate programs wouldn’t meet her as a learner. I never experienced a validation of my learning style in college, and didn’t see myself as either an intellectual or an academic. Antioch University New England took me where I was, without a background in science, but with a huge passion for the planet.
Antioch taught me how to learn. I was able to digest information and express ideas in a way that came from a deep place of learning I hadn’t previously experienced. I came to Antioch with no formal training in science and an inherited alienation from the broad field of science, and I left with a stunning sense of certainty. I had learned to translate my passion into the lives of my students.
Upon graduation Jen forewent her course of informal environmental education for a charter school based in East Harlem-a school that has claimed New York City’s Central Park as its outdoor science lab for myriad scientific investigations. There she taught grades one through eight, creating a science curriculum that met both stringent state requirements and spoke to the specific needs of the students. New York City is brimming with ecological encounters begging to be explored-waterfalls, invertebrates, redtail hawks, an 11-acre pond for year-round water quality studies, and issues of environmental justice such as blazing traffic and its smoke plumes.
The Urban Youth of the Big Apple
After four years in New York City, Jen has turned her attention to Boston teenagers where she manages a program, again for urban youth, who are committed to making a difference in their community. These teenagers call themselves the Boston Environmental Ambassadors to National Parks and act as youth educating others about the Boston Harbor Islands, while providing opportunities for groups to experience the islands firsthand. They reach out to youth in after-school programs and schools in and around Boston to teach them about island access, history, and the ecology of this incredible resource.
Our teen leaders take their responsibilities as ambassadors seriously. I am so proud of these kids. They are allocating grant money. They are developing and scoring RFPs. They are going into schools and youth programs to educate their community about this incredible resource. They are making presentations at partnership meetings and inspiring organizational leaders through their own actions on behalf of the Harbor Islands. They are empowered youth.
AUNE turned my world upside down. I was driven by the content, but it was the philosophy, the personal and academic confidence, and the profound inspiration I received from colleagues and faculty that made me the teacher I am today.