Overview of Maine Master Naturalist Courses
The MMNP course moves to a new location each year with the goal of making the training accessible throughout Maine. Courses have been offered in Augusta, Belfast, Blue Hill, Bridgton, Falmouth, Holden, Lewiston, South Paris, and Wiscasset.
The 2018-19 course is now underway in Falmouth. We are targeting the next course to begin in January, 2020, at a location still to be determined. If you would like us to notify you when we eventually have information about the next course, please send us your email address through the checkbox on the “Contact Us” page. We won’t respond until we’re ready to announce the location.
The course runs for approximately one year, generally requiring one 3-hour weeknight plus one full Saturday per month. Click here for class dates for the 2018-2019 course. Students do many hours of work on their own between classes. It is important that students attend every class as we cover new topics at every session. In the year following the course, graduates do 40 hours of volunteering to share their knowledge. After that, Maine Master Naturalists commit to 20 hours of volunteering per year.
Personnel Involved with Each Course
- MMNP Board: The Maine Master Naturalist Program is unaffiliated with any institution and is governed by an all-volunteer Board.
- instructors: All instructors for each course are volunteers. Many are experts in their field, and all give their time generously to teach our students and to support the mission of the organization.
- Mentors: Each student is assigned to a mentor, who supports a group of several students throughout the course. Mentors are volunteers, and almost all are Maine Master Naturalists, having graduated from an earlier class.
The MMNP core curriculum includes the following subjects:
- mammals – including signs, tracking, and skull and scat ID
- amphibians and reptiles
- plant families and fruiting structures
- forbs, wildflowers, and shrubs
- trees — including leaves, twigs, and bark
- winter plant identification
- vernal pools
- nature journaling
Select topics augment the basic curriculum depending upon the location of the class.
The fee for the course changes depending upon the costs attendant to the particular location. The fee for the Falmouth class is $500.
Students generally find the course material compelling and spend a minimum total of 150 hours completing homework assignments and a capstone project.
Students receive naturalist equipment and nature guides. The program uses Google Drive and email to provide almost all other information to students throughout the course. Students print materials for their reference.
Homework: Students submit homework related to the various areas of study. Assignments include collecting specimens, practicing with identification keys, drawing, and responding to readings. (Note: sketching is assigned solely to develop skills in observation, with artistic merit as an occasional fortunate byproduct!)
Nature Journal: Students keep a nature journal, which mentors review monthly. The journal includes the following:
- phenology observations: Students record seasonal natural phenomena, especially animal and plant life and climate.
- delimited site observations: Students select a “delimited site,” a specific spot to visit at least once a week throughout the course to witness changes in nature.
Quizzes: Students take a short quiz at the beginning of each class. Quiz questions flow directly from a study guide provided for each topic.
Bird walks: Students are asked to participate in three public bird walks outside of the program in order to further their birding skills and to observe styles of experiential learning. The course leaders will help students find bird walks.
Practice teaching: To help students gain experience as teaching naturalists, they will be asked to serve as assistant leaders in three public nature walks outside the course.
Students are required to study a particular aspect of natural history in Maine and to spend a minimum of 20 hours developing an educational program, field experience, trail guide, or similar product that others can use. Mentors can help in guiding the choice of the project. Students present their Capstones to the class at the end of the course. Click here for capstone guidelines and samples of past capstones.
Attendance and Make-Up
Because the topics change with every class, students must arrange their schedules to attend every session for the duration of the course. MMNP policy is that a student may miss only one class in the year. The student has the responsibility to make arrangements to learn the missed material, with the mentor’s help. Applicants should check the schedule carefully to make sure that they do not have conflicts. Students are responsible for arranging any make-up session.
Students who complete all course requirements will receive the title of Maine Master Naturalist.
Volunteer Teaching Requirement to Fulfill MMNP’s Vision
In order to achieve our vision to create a network of Master Naturalist volunteers who inspire the public to cherish Maine’s natural resources, our mission is to train Master Naturalists as citizen-naturalist volunteers who have the skills and confidence to help people enjoy and learn about the natural world.
In the year following graduation, Master Naturalists are required to volunteer 40 hours leading and teaching others, and to report their time back to the organization. After that, Master Naturalists must volunteer 20 hours per year. The credential of “Master Naturalist” opens the door for our graduates to share their knowledge with a wide variety of people in a wide range of settings.
Students will have many chances throughout the course to engage in experiential learning and to practice experiential teaching so that they have confidence and readiness to engage with others following graduation.
Program graduates have the opportunity to take in-depth, one-day MMNP Continuing Education classes on a variety of topics taught by experts at various locations in Maine. These workshops provide additional learning opportunities and a way to stay engaged with the Maine Master Naturalist Program over time.