Keep Informed Where are you now? > 2010-2019Caroline Baillie

Where Are You Now?

Caroline Baillie

PGCE Education 2018

Position and company: Academic Director of the University of San Diego’s Masters program in Engineering, Sustainability and Health (MESH) 

A Sunderland graduate is bringing UK-style Forest Schools to the USA, in her capacity as a professor of engineering.

Professor Caroline Baillie is Academic Director of the University of San Diego’s Masters program in Engineering, Sustainability and Health (MESH). Before joining San Diego, Caroline served as Chair and Professor of Engineering Education at the University Western Australia and held appointments at the University of Sydney, Imperial College, UK and Queens University, Canada.

But her ambitions to teach young people about engineering and sustainability brought her to Sunderland, where she studied PGCE Education as a distance learning student, graduating in 2018.

Professor Baillie said: “I took the degree simply to educate myself - I was not in fact ever going to be a primary school teacher as I’ve been an engineering educator in universities for 30 years. But I had a child later in life and got interested in Forest School.

“I became a first school leader just for fun and started to run forest schools as a hobby alongside my role as an engineering Professor.”

Forest Schools allow children the freedom to play, explore, learn and develop within natural surroundings, they help to bring the local woodland to life and nurture a respect for nature and the seasons.

“I’m from the UK and know the way Forest Schools works over there, and it occurred to me that in the United States there were very few first school programs in the public school system, and this needed to change.

“I took the PGCE so I could know more about elementary education and bring forest schools to the public schools here. I did my University of Sunderland PGCE teaching practice at my son’s public school - and during that time I asked the school if I could implement a forest school to teach the math classes I had been assigned.

“Next thing I knew the ground staff were helping me create an outdoor classroom. The school now uses forest school across the curriculum and I’m starting to train other teachers and schools across the United States in what I call ‘Forest School STEAM’.”

Caroline continued: “Throughout my PGCE I really enjoyed the support of the coursework and professors which led me through the necessary steps of understanding how kids learn, how to create fun and interesting curricula and I absolutely loved doing the practical in my son’s school.

“The flexibility of the distance learning program enabled me to study at home in New York and apply the learning to support my son’s school develop – as well as bringing me a whole new way of seeing the combination of nature and learning. I also loved having that connection back home to the UK.”

Caroline also founded Waste for Life in 2006 to enable community groups to develop recycling waste businesses. Caroline also co-founded the Engineering, Social Justice and Peace network in 2004, which hosted its annual conference at University of San Diego in 2018. 

She is a Thomson Reuters Highly cited author, with over 200 publications, papers and books on materials science, engineering education and engineering and social justice. In addition to her academic work, Caroline runs a theatre company entitled Critical Stage through which she adopts theatre and film as a platform for education around intangible social issues, including those related to technical development.

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