Outdoor Leadership and Education

Graduate Certificate

Program overview

The outdoors is an essential part of Maine’s heritage and an increasingly critical component of our modern economy. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, Maine’s outdoor recreation economy generates more than $3 billion annually and the state ranks in the top 10 nationally in terms of the percentage of its gross domestic product that comes from outdoor industries. The sector is particularly important for the sustainability of rural communities. Maine needs a skilled cadre of stewards, educators and outdoor guides to lead groups knowledgeably, ethically and safely on trips in our wilderness and natural resources. The 15-credit Outdoor Leadership and Education graduate certificate at the University of Maine is designed to provide students with a combination of hands-on practices and theory to help facilitate meaningful, high-quality outdoor learning opportunities for participants of all ages. The curriculum is focused on the professional knowledge and field experiences needed for anyone interested in successfully incorporating more experiential and place-based learning into settings such as PK-12 schools, as well as post-secondary and adult education.

Thanks to a generous gift from the Onion Foundation, scholarships are available for two summer 2024 classes being offered in Oxford County, Maine:

Learning Outcomes

Students who complete the Outdoor Education and Leadership graduate certificate will:

  • Be able to plan and facilitate safe, meaningful and appropriate outdoor activities and outdoor learning experiences for diverse participants in diverse settings
  • Use and build upon their existing professional knowledge, experience and skills to incorporate outdoor activities and learning into their instructional practices in dynamic and innovative ways
  • Thoughtfully and ethically incorporate elements of place into learning experience

Course sequence

This 15-credit graduate certificate is offered in collaboration with the University of Maine at Machias and requires two courses (6 credits) in Outdoor Leadership, two courses (6 credits) in Pedagogy of Place and a practicum or field experience course (3 credits). More information about when the courses are offered and the method of instruction is below.

Required Courses

  • KPE 512: Ethics and Social Justice in Outdoor Leadership (UMaine; fall semester; online asynchronous)
  • KPE 550: Bringing the Classroom Outdoors (UMaine; summer semester; hybrid online with a 5-day intensive in-person field experience)

Pedagogy of Place (choose two)

  • NAS 401: Advanced Topics in Native American Studies: Teaching Wabanaki Studies (UMaine; spring semester; in-person)
  • MES 540: Maine and the Northeast Borderlands (UMaine; spring; online asynchronous)
  • MES 520: Advanced Topics in Maine Studies (UMaine; various semesters; typically online)
  • EHD 590: Topics in Education — Rural and Community Leadership (UMaine; various; online)
  • EHD 691: Graduate Apprenticeship (UMaine Machias; various; online)

Field Experience

  • EHD 657: Practicum — Graduate students will complete their practicum by taking on a leadership role in collaboration with the instructors in one of the following courses:
    • KPE 396: Field Experience in Outdoor Leadership (UMaine; various; in-person)
    • KPE 207: Wilderness First Aid (UMaine; various; in-person)
    • KPE 280: Introduction to Paddling Instruction and Safety (UMaine; various; in-person)
    • REM 227: Backcountry Expedition Skills (UMaine Machias; various; in-person)


Maine ranks among the top five states nationally in terms of the percentage of its economy coming from the outdoor recreation industry. In addition to practicing teachers in PK-12 schools looking to gain skills and experience in outdoor education and instruction, this certificate may be appropriate for people in careers such as guiding and outfitting, wilderness therapy and natural resource management.


Our outstanding faculty have a wealth of research and practical knowledge to help working educators and other professionals address current challenges in education and improve the human condition. Courses in this graduate certificate program are taught by faculty from our School of Kinesiology, Physical Education and Athletic Training and the University of Maine at Machias’ Outdoor Recreation and Leadership program.

To apply

Applications must be completed via the UMaine Graduate School’s online application form. Although we accept new students on a rolling basis, preference will be given to students who submit by the following dates:

  • August 15 (for Fall start)
  • December 15 (for Spring start)
  • April 15 (for Summer start)

Additional requirements or considerations:

  • Students must hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. Official transcripts are required.
  • Students may take individual courses before submitting an application. However, you must pass all courses with a B- or higher grade in order to apply them toward the certificate.
  • Courses taken in this certificate program may be accepted for transfer into a master’s or higher graduate program if approved by the students’ advisor. However, completion of a certificate course does not guarantee acceptance to a graduate degree program.


Lauren Jacobs
Lecturer of Outdoor Leadership, University of Maine

Karen Beeftink
Associate Professor of Environmental Recreation and Tourism Management, University of Maine at Machias