How much time does the program involve?
A lot. Plan on devoting at least 300 hours and probably much more to the following components:
- 100 hours: classes and field trips.
- 200+ hours: completing assignments at home and at delimited study site; keeping track of phenology; writing and drawing in a nature journal, practicing using keys, bird watching, attending relevant seminars or outings, shadowing leaders on nature walks, and spending time outdoors observing as much as you can.
- 20 hours: capstone project.
If you wonder whether you have the time to take the course and fulfill the requirements, please give careful consideration to the significant commitment involved. In addition to attending every class, you must be able to devote time outside of class studying curricula, collecting and observing in the field, and preparing specimens. Typically, students spend about 30 hours per month on the class.
If you worry that you do not have this amount of time available, we respectfully ask you not to apply to the program. The reason is that every year several students drop out during the course because they don’t have enough time to do the work. We regret when this happens because we have more applicants than we can accept, and once the program is underway it is too late to offer that spot to another deserving applicant. Please read these student comments to gain a full understanding of the time commitment.
What does tuition cover?
Tuition, due a week after an applicant receives an offer of admission, covers the following items:
- Core books used in instruction, including at least: Forest Trees of Maine, The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America, Sibley’s Birding Basics, Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide, Botany in a Day, Fern Finder, Field Guide to the Animals of Vernal Pools, Track Finder, Winter Weed Finder, Fascinating Fungi of New England, Lichens of the North Woods
- Some tools of the trade: hand lens, dissecting kit, bug box, and others
- Administrative expenses
- Classroom rental
Do you offer scholarships?
We regret that we aren’t able to offer scholarships. Program income is just enough to cover expenses. Sometimes students have found other organizations to sponsor them, for example land trusts that would benefit from a student’s volunteering after the course.
Are instructors and course coordinators paid positions?
No. All instructors, course coordinators, and board members volunteer their time to MMNP. They are role models for future graduates who will go on to volunteer their services as trained Master Naturalists.
When will the course come to my town?
We are trying to grow our roster of graduates outward so that we can develop instructors and mentors to cover a wider area of Maine. Given that we are all volunteers, our course locations are constrained by how far instructors, mentors, and organizers can reasonably drive to get to class. If you can conceivably get to a course location, you should apply, because we might not be able to offer a course closer to you in the foreseeable future.
Is MMNP affiliated with another institution?
MMNP is not affiliated with any institution. Everyone involved is a volunteer. We cover expenses with course fees and donations. We are a tax deductible nonprofit and gratefully accept donations … please get in touch!
Does everyone who applies get in?
No. We typically have at least twice as many applicants as we can accommodate.
What background, knowledge, and skills do you look for in an applicant?
MMNP seeks students with the following characteristics:
- Ongoing interest in the outdoors
- Basic knowledge of and curiosity about the natural world
- Time available to fulfill course requirements
- Demonstrated history of volunteering in the community
We receive many more applications than we can accept. In the selection process, we build a diverse class with a range of expertise and backgrounds.
Does the course require me to collect live specimens?
Yes. Students are required to collect and preserve specimens from trees, ferns, and wildflowers, and insects (found-dead insects are acceptable). These collections aid the students’ understanding of these specimens and are useful when teaching others.
As a student, do I need to be familiar with technology?
Yes. Technology plays an important part in the MMNP program. We disseminate course materials using Google Drive and communicate frequently via email. Students print their own course materials for every class. Our leadership team is available to help with tutoring and support, but access to a computer with internet capabilities and a printer is essential for every MMNP student.
For whom is the program not a good fit?
If you’re looking for skills for employment as a naturalist, you need a college degree. Given our mission to train volunteers who will share their skills with others, if you know you will never be comfortable volunteering as a teacher, instructor, or leader, this course is not for you. If you already have extensive natural history knowledge, training, and skills, you may find the material too elementary. If you are too busy to do homework assignments and to practice outside, the course will not benefit you, because the classes are only the introduction; the deep learning happens on your own time.
May I take the course just to increase my own knowledge of nature, and not volunteer afterwards?
Much as we applaud anyone who wants to learn more about nature, we don’t have enough teachers and time to offer the course only for self-enrichment. Our mission is to train volunteers who then go on to help others learn. Students enjoy the course and then are expected to share their new expertise by volunteering.
Do you accept auditors?
No. Space is limited and demand is high. MMNP accepts only individuals who can make a full commitment to the course.
What happens if I can’t attend all of the classes?
Participants may miss (and make up the work for) for one class only, so check the schedule carefully to make sure that you do not have conflicts. Weather cancellations are sometimes necessary, and we ask students to treat scheduled makeup days as mandatory.
What are the requirements after graduation?
In the year following the course, MMNP requires graduates to volunteer 40 hours sharing their knowledge of nature with others. In subsequent years the volunteering expectation is 20 hours per year.
What is the refund policy? Do you have a payment plan?
If a student withdraws before the first class, the refund is the tuition amount less $20.00. If a student withdraws prior to the third class, refund is 20% of tuition. Thereafter, no refund will be issued.
MMNP can set up a payment plan; ask the course coordinator for details.
Does the course offer Continuing Education Units for teachers?
MMNP does offer CEUs for the program. One CEU of participation in organized training conducted by our qualified instructor is equivalent to one 60-minute interaction between an instructor and the participant. Students are responsible for tracking time, and course coordinators will verify attendance.