firefly2School of the Earth

(our courses)

illum_w e use an ancient tree as a structural symbol for our international band of professionals.  We call it our “gathering tree.” It has three trunks: interpretation, education, contemplation. The School of the Earth serves as the training component of our work for all three. The School of the Earth and The Institute for Earth Education (IEE) has been conducting workshops since the early 1970s. Thousands of teachers, naturalists, interpreters, outdoor leaders and others have attended those sessions around the world. Our workshops reflect the same careful planning and attention to detail that has put us on the cutting edge of environmental interpretation and education for almost a half-century. No one in this field has had more success with a greater range of sessions than our trainers. baloonBIG Participants take away concept-building strategies, interpretive techniques, good leadership methods, natural awareness experiences, and tools and guidelines for program building. In addition, we offer special program workshops at selected sites for newcomers to our programs and in-depth leadership workshops for both new program purchasers and “old-timers” who want to keep abreast of our revisions. Other workshops are offered on interpretive design and contemplative experiences. IEE has prepared a small number of trainers to lead its workshops and courses. Our trainers participate in rigorous training over the course of a year or more to prepare for the sessions they lead in order to insure that we can provide the same high quality presentations at every workshop. In addition, speeches by Steve Van Matre, founder and international chair of the institute, are offered through the school. And Bruce Johnson, international program coordinator and chair of the earth education research team at the University of Arizona is available for conference presentations.

Choosing a Course…

The institute offers a number of courses depending on whether someone is interested primarily in the interpretation, education, or contemplation trunks of its tree. Program Workshops are for those who would like a firsthand introduction to one of the institute’s current programs, and the in-depth Leadership Workshops are for those who want to begin conducting one of its programs or special experiences. All of the workshops enjoy a worldwide reputation for quality and are conducted by the institute’s accredited trainers.

Choosing a Talk…

SvmSteve Van Matre’s popularity in the field of nature education and interpretation began with the publication of the Acclimatization and Acclimatizing books, and the 1974 National Geographic magazine article on his program. Today, Steve enjoys a worldwide reputation as an author, designer, educator – and yes, as an organizer, speaker, and provocateur. His animated talks and spirited commentaries seldom leave anyone unmoved. “Falling in love with the earth is one of life’s great adventures. It is an affair of the heart like no other; a rapturous experience that remains endlessly repeatable throughout life. This is no fleeting romance; it’s an uncommon affair, one unconstrained by age or custom, and strengthened rather than diminished through sharing. The more one gives it away, the stronger it grows.”

acorn   “Mapbearers, Toolkeepers, Starmakers”

Sponsoring a Session

If you would like to sponsor a one- or two-day training session that will prepare leaders to offer earth education programs, such as, Earthkeepers, or start them off on the earth education path, please contact us. If you would like to introduce them to the “dance of experience” through interpretive design, please contact us. If you would like to encourage others to reflect upon why they are serving the planet and where they are going in their service, please contact us. There are seven steps in arranging an institute workshop or speech:

  1. A Trainer arranges for a workshop with a Sponsor (through a personal contact, a referral from an Affiliate Branch coordinator, or even a referral from the international office).
  2. The Trainer sends a “Request for a Workshop” form to the international office, with the per participant fee in US Dollars (based on our annual international fees chart).
  3. When the Request for a Workshop form is received, the international office sends a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to the Sponsor, plus a copy to the Trainer (to assure its accuracy).
  4. When a signed copy of the MOA is received from the Sponsor at the international office, a copy is sent to the Trainer authorizing the Trainer to conduct the workshop. A Trainer cannot conduct a workshop for the institute without receiving a signed copy of this MOA from the international office.
  5. Upon completion of the workshop, a Session Record, signed by both the Trainer and the Sponsor, is sent to the international office.
  6. Based on the Session Record, the international office invoices the Sponsor in US Dollars, payable to the international office. (When there is an Affiliate Branch involved, the international office invoices the Affiliate in US Dollars for the portion of the fees due the international, and the Affiliate invoices the Sponsor.) The Sponsor pays the Trainer directly for the Trainer’s travel, materials, or other expense.
  7. When the international office receives payment, it pays the Trainer in US Dollars, or issues a credit memo in US Dollars to an Affiliate which pays the Trainer in the local currency.


The School of the Earth is the training arm of the institute. Here is a brief overview of our certified trainers: who they are, where they are located, the sessions each is available to conduct, and their contact information.

Ilkka Aula

Ilkka Aula became involved with earth education in the 1990’s and has been helping lead the Earthkeepers programs in Finland since 1996. Ilkka has been the Major Branch Coordinator for the Finnish Branch of the institute for many years and has been instrumental as the Translation Team Coordinator that led to Earth Education…A New Beginning, Earthwalks, Muir Treks, and Earthkeepers Level I and Level II in Finnish. Now the owner of the company Elontila (ET) Ay, he received his Masters in Environmental Science from the University of Helsinki, and has worked as a nature school teacher, director for environmental protection, and director of a nature center in Finland. Ilkka has the ability to conduct his workshops in both Finnish and English. Home Base: Elontila (ET) Ay, Lahti, Finland Certified Workshops: Introductory Earth Education Workshop, Muir Trek Leadership Workshop, Earthwalks Leadership Workshop. Contact:

Jon Cree

Jon Cree has been a certified trainer for the institute in the United Kingdom and Europe since 1991, leading dozens of sessions across the continent and helping numerous outdoor leaders become earth educators themselves. Currently, Jon is the Training Coordinator at Bishops Wood Centre (part of the Worcestershire County Council). While working at Peak National Park in the 80’s, Jon helped run both the Earthkeepers and Sunship Earth programs, and at Bishops Wood, Earthkeepers and SUNSHIP III. He joined the institute as an Associate in 1983. Home Base: Bishops Wood Centre, Tenbury Wells, Worcestershire, UK Certified Workshops: Introductory Earth Education Workshop, Earthwalks Leadership Workshop, Muir Trek Leadership Workshop, Earthkeepers Program Day. Contact:

Ian Duckworth
Ian Duckworth’s involvement with the institute began in 1982 when he attended one of the first Earth Education Workshops in the United Kingdom. Since that time he has helped establish local branches of the institute in England and initiated several earth education programs at centres where he worked. He has also held several institute positions, including coordinator for the UK Branch, and is now a trustee of the UK Fund for Earth Education.  Currently, he helps assess outdoor centres for The Council for Learning Outside the Classroom and with biological surveys for the U.K. National Trust. Ian is the past director of the Shortenills Centre, has served as education officer for the Bristol Museum and the World Wildlife Fund, and taught science in middle and secondary schools. Ian has led the Introductory Earth Education Workshop in the UK, Ireland, and France. Home Base: Wareham, Dorset, England. Certified Workshops: Introductory Earth Education Workshop. Contact:
Mark Jefferys
Mark Jefferys became involved with earth education in the United Kingdom in1986 when he introduced both Earthkeepers Level I and Level II at a residential centre in Northern Ireland. In addition, he has helped run both Sunship Earth and SUNSHIP III programs. Mark was the past UK Branch Coordinator for the institute from 2000 – 2005 and has been a certified trainer since 2009. While working with Primary Schools for the Wildlife Trust in Buckinghamshire, he made earth education a key curriculum component for the county students. Mark is currently involved in the Transition Education group in Totnes and is available for earth education sessions across Southwest England. Home Base: Dartington, Devon, UK Certified Workshops: Introductory Earth Education Workshop, Earthwalks Leadership Workshop. Contact: markjefferys@ieetree,org
Bruce Johnson
Bruce Johnson is the International Program Coordinator and International Research Coordinator for the institute. A long-time earth educator, outdoor school director, and classroom teacher, he is a professor of environmental learning and department head at the University of Arizona where he serves as Director of the Earth Education Research and Evaluation Team, and coordinator of Masters and Ph.D programs in environmental learning. Bruce is co-author with Steve Van Matre of Earthkeepers and SUNSHIP III, and has authored numerous journal articles, conference papers and book chapters about earth education. He has visited over 40 earth education programs sites around the world, where he has led programs, conducted research, and offered workshops and staff trainings. Home Base: University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, USA Certified Workshops: Introductory Earth Education Workshop, Earthkeepers Leadership Workshop, Earthkeepers Program Day, SUNSHIP III Program Day, SUNSHIP III Leadership Workshop. Contact:
Mike Mayer
Mike Mayer is a long-time Associate staff member of IEE and the former International Training and International Translation Coordinator for the institute. As a camp administrator, center director, naturalist, classroom teacher, and experienced earth educator, he has used these opportunities to introduce earth education programs and methods since 1976. His articles on earth education and the natural world have appeared in several journals and newspapers and he has presented at local, state, and national conferences. Mike has led dozens of earth education and program leadership workshops throughout the world and has helped coordinate the translation of earth education materials into nine different languages. He is currently affiliated with the Earth Education Research and Evaluation Team and the Cooper Center for Environmental Learning at The University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona. Home Base: University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, USA Certified Workshops: Introductory Earth Education Workshop, Earthwalks Leadership Workshop, Earthkeepers Leadership Workshop, Earthkeepers Program Day, SUNSHIP III Program Day, Muir Trek Leadership Workshop. Contact:
Lars Wohlers
Lars Wohlers has been involved with earth education and interpretive design since the early 1990’s.  He was a co-founder, and has been a board member of the German Branch of the institute since its beginning.  Having worked in a number of protected areas in Germany and abroad, Lars specializes in interpretive design, a field in which he has worked on several European-wide projects.  After earning his Masters degree in cultural sciences, he worked for 12 years as an assistant professor at Leuphana University/Germany at the Institute for Environmental and Sustainability Communication, where he completed his PhD in Environmental Interpretation.  Lars has authored numerous journal articles, conference papers, and books on interpretation, communication, and earth education.  He has conducted projects, research, and workshops on interpretation in more than a dozen European countries.  In 2006, he formed the interpretation consultancy company, KON-TIKI. Home Base:  KON-TIKI, Lüneburg, Germany Certified Workshops:  Interpretive Design Workshop. Contact:
Steve Van Matre
Steve Van Matre is the International Chair of the institute. He has been one of the world’s leading nature educators since the 1970 release of his pioneering work, Acclimatization, which led to a dozen other landmark publications in the field, including Sunship Earth, The Earth Speaks, Earthkeepers, Earth Education…A New Beginning, and Interpretive Design…And the Dance of Experience.  At various points in his career, he has been a youth leader, public school teacher, camp director, educational consultant, university professor, public speaker, workshop trainer, and interpretive designer.  Professor Van Matre has led sessions for nature educators, interpreters, teachers, and others for over a half-century on six continents. Home Base:  Cedar Cove, Greenville, WV, USA Certified Workshops & Speeches: Introductory Earth Education Workshop, Earth Education Advanced Leadership Workshop, Interpretive Design Workshop, Interpretive Design Practicum, Contemplative Experience Workshop, Earth Education Guidepost Talks, Various Keynote Speeches (including the inspirational “Mapbearers, Toolkeepers, and Starmakers”). Contact:
Femke Vergeest
Femke Vergeest became involved with earth education in 1996 and established the Dutch Branch of the institute.  She was the Major Branch Coordinator for many years and has been instrumental as the Translation Team Coordinator for the Earthwalks, the Earthkeepers program, and the Muir Treks.  Femke has spent many years in nature conservation in the Netherlands.  She has the ability to conduct her workshops in both Dutch and English. Home Base:  Velp, the Netherlands Certified Workshops:  Muir Trek Leadership Workshop. Contact: