COA's Summer Field Studies for Children. Educational Studies at COA serves students with various interests, from classroom teaching, to outdoor or arts education, to educational innovation or policy. For example, Abby Plummer, MPhil ’16, integrated her experience and interest in sustainable food systems, health, and elementary education, co-coordinating COA’s farm-to-school program in collaboration with teachers at our local K-8 school and undergrads at COA interested in education and/or food systems. She continues to integrate garden-based education while teaching middle school in mid-coast Maine.

Sarah Short Heller ’09 studied botany and education, designing a native North Cascades garden and curriculum for her senior project and co-founding a forest preschool. Hiyasmin Saturay ’15, combined studies in literature and writing, education, and filmmaking, which culminated in a documentary film about environmental justice in the Philippines. She is currently working on a documentary about the Filipino people’s movement. After exploring social and educational innovation at COA, Clement Moliner-Roy ’18 launched the Changemaker Residency, a month-long social innovation incubator. Enrique Eduardo Valencia Lopez ’11 is pursuing a Ph.D. in policy studies after working as a Subdirector for the Instituto Nacional para la Evaluación de la Educación in Mexico. At COA, his senior project explored the survival strategies of refugees in Kampala, Uganda, including their educational access.

For those seeking classroom teaching certification, COA’s Educational Studies Program is approved by the Maine Department of Education (MDOE) to grant Maine Initial Teaching Certification for K-12 Art Education, Elementary Education (grades K–8) or Secondary Education (grades 7–12) in Life Science, Social Studies, or English Language Arts. Students interested in teaching in other areas, such as world languages or mathematics, can pursue certification via an MDOE transcript analysis. Maine is part of an inter-state agreement so that certification in Maine extends to almost every US state and territory. Review the classroom teaching certification requirements here.

Most students at COA choosing to take education classes do not pursue certification. These students, like most of the above-profiled alumni, are interested in education outside of a formal setting, seeking to work in outdoors, in museums, or other informal learning contexts. Our curriculum includes comparative, intercultural, and international education, preparing students to teach culturally diverse learners in and outside the US. For example, Ela Keegan ’21, chose to study schools’ disaster risk readiness around the world for her Changing Schools final project. Rianna Brooks ’18, followed a winter term in Taiwan with the Human Ecology Abroad in Taiwan program, to complete her senior project as a COA intern with the Junyi Experimental High School where she provided immersion English language learning opportunities for indigenous and native Chinese speaking students. If you choose to pursue teaching certification, you will learn alongside your peers interested in farm-based, international, museum, and outdoor education until you enroll in teaching methods courses. All education courses combine substantial time in local classrooms and other learning spaces, allowing you to put into practice what you are learning from introductory to more advanced courses.

Local partners

In order to offer an experiential and placed based education in learning and teaching, COA collaborates with local public and private schools and community organizations like the Abbe Museum, Acadia National Park, The Community School of Mount Desert Island, Healthy Acadia, and Willowind Therapeutic Riding Center. Many of our classes are taught by local teachers, so students learn from expert practitioners. Almost all education classes involve visits to one or more area schools. Fieldwork, practica, service learning, and school observations ensure that classroom learning is grounded in the daily experiences of Pre-K-12 teachers and students. Recent student teachers have taught at local schools as well as in Portland, Maine, and New York City.

One of our local partnerships is with Island Institute, a nonprofit organization working to sustain Maine’s island and coastal towns. Through the Sustainable Coastal Communities, Educators, Students, and Schools (SUCCESS) collaboration, we are working with Island Institute to: develop an intergenerational, professional development infrastructure that brings together COA education students with Maine island teachers and school leaders; increase educators’ understanding and practice of place-based education; and engage Maine K-12 students with education on sustainable food systems, renewable energy production, and climate change. This has resulted in many school visits, workshops and intensives, and ongoing support for a Bar Harbor-COA farm-to-school program.

Education and society

Many are drawn to education classes because they want to learn about the central role that education plays in forming and informing individuals and communities. Education classes are interdisciplinary and wide-ranging. For example, Changing Schools, Changing Society examines the potential and limits of education as an instrument of enlightened progress and lasting positive social, cultural, and environmental change. Femininity and Masculinity go to School centers around two key questions: How does gender influence students’ learning and experiences of school, curriculum and instruction, teacher-student relationships, school culture and administration? And how do schools perpetuate, resist, and construct gendered identities and gender roles?

Human ecology and educational studies

Educational studies at COA is based on interconnection, interaction, and interdependence.

The conceptual framework that guides the program elaborates the ways that human ecology informs the theory, research, and practices of learning and teaching in education systems that we aspire to realize.

Our mission is to “develop creative, knowledgeable, collaborative, and critically reflective educators who will bring intellectual passion and ecological wisdom into their teaching. To this end, students engage in a self-designed, interdisciplinary curriculum emphasizing early and on-going experiences in both formal and informal educational settings.”


  • <div class="lw_blurbs_body"><p><strong>Reminder</strong>: Areas of Study at COA aren’t majors or formal concentrations. All COA students design their own <a href="/academics/human-ecology-degree/">major in human ecology</a> and are free to chart their own path. Your major is defined by you, not us.</p></div>
  • <div class="lw_blurbs_body"><p><strong>Reminder</strong>: ‘Areas of Study’ aren’t the only way to think about courses.  Browse and explore <a href="">here</a>.</p></div>



Adjunct faculty

Many of our classes are taught by adjunct faculty who are experienced educators in the local school system.

  • Kelley Sanborn. Special Education Teacher—Students with Unique Needs, MDI Regional School System.  Supporting Students with Disabilities.
  • Joanne Alex. Former Education Director, Stillwater Montessori School. Child Development, Integrated Methods II: Math, Science, and Social Studies (team-taught with Fuller & Edgecomb).
  • Meryl Sweeney, Grade 3 Teacher, Conners–Emerson School. Children’s Literature.
  • Ashley Stanley. Kindergarten Teacher, Tremont Consolidated School. Integrated Methods I: Reading and Writing (team-taught with Linda Fuller).
  • Marielle Edgecomb, Math Teacher, Sumner Learning Campus. Integrated Methods II: Math, Science, and Social Studies (team-taught with Alex & Fuller).