Creating a “Master Naturalist” Curriculum Dr. Michael Jeffords Illinois Natural History Survey
One who appreciates, understands, and respects the natural world, and in so doing, nourishes a sense of belonging with the rest of Nature. A Master Naturalist is…
this ever growing affinity by: learning more (about Nature) whenever possible; communing with Nature in meaningful ways; conserving and restoring the Land Community; modifying behaviors to lighten his/her personal “footprint”; and Sharing personal knowledge and experiences with others. The Master Naturalist expresses…
The Master Naturalist Curriculum Cur-ric-u-lum“A set of courses constituting an area of specialization” The Master Naturalist curriculum should be created and organized in such a fashion that it follow basic tenets for qualityinstruction.
1st Tenet for Quality Instruction • Each topic should be finite in scope. • Too much information is worse than too little. • Keep the background material short, succinct, and to the point.
2nd Tenet for Quality Instruction • Provide activities, tools, or other types of interactions that can be used to increase knowledge of the subject with active participation by the Master Naturalist trainees. • They must obtain enough confidence in what they know to feel comfortable “passing it on” to others.
Field Experiences… Are essential!
3rd Tenet for Quality Instruction • Materials must be enticing so they will be read and absorbed by the MN’s, meaning individual chapters/sections cannot be too long or go into too much depth. • The depth can be investigated in other ways, such as with activities specific to each part of the topic that is important. • We must remember that MN’s are getting only a few hours, at most, with each topic, and they will feel comfortable only with the materials they have had direct contact with.
4th Tenet for Quality Instruction • In its’ current state, the MN Curriculum is mostly a reference work, not a curriculum. • The curriculum should be designed to provide an entrance into the topic that will motivate the trainee to seek more information from the reference manual, MN website, or other sources.
5th Tenet for Quality Instruction • The curriculum should provide a guide to how the MN Program expects its instructors to perform. • Most instructors (e.g. university types) are used to the lecture format and will use that, unless otherwise instructed, motivated, or guided. • They will also use the textbook style for presenting written information to the audience. • In its current state, the MN curriculum largely reflects this, although parts are well-done and will readily fit the proposed format.
6th Tenet for Quality Instruction • Knowledge sought on one’s own is likely to be retained far longer than knowledge projected on him/her from a stage. • The instructor’s task is to motivate participants to become life-long “self learners”, which implies that some instruction is needed in evaluating various sources of information.
In Summary: Effective Master Naturalist instruction should typically employ a mix of: • lecture • interaction by instructors with participants • interactive activities • field experiences.
Proposed Course Structure Model for Illinois Master Naturalist Program
Proposed Chapter Structure Model for Illinois Master Naturalist Program
Core Curriculum We propose the following content: • Background / introduction of up to 2000 words per topic (with color photos/graphics) • A core PowerPoint presentation to accompany each topic (can be modified by each instructor as they see fit) • Skill-building activities that can be used in classroom or in the field • Action projects that can be taught in the field and applied to volunteer activities • Activity template for customizing and creating activities specific to various areas of Illinois
Activity Template • Introducing the Activity • Procedure • Assessing the Activity • Extending the Activity • References • Title • Investigative Question • Overview • Objective • Materials • Time to Complete • Advance Preparation
Instructors • To be asked to be a Master Naturalist instructor is an honor and a privilege and seeks to tap the abilities and knowledge of those chosen. • The mere act of asking implies the designee is an expert in the subject matter in question, but it also carries with it the expectation of innovative, quality instruction from that same expert.