The Wisconsin Master Naturalist Program (WIMN) is a network of well-informed citizens dedicated to conservation education and service within Wisconsin communities. Most states across the country offer similar master naturalist programs to increase informed volunteer service related to natural resources.
The WIMN Volunteer Training Course provides 40 hours of coursework in natural history, interpretation, and conservation stewardship. Courses combine classroom instruction with field experiences and are taught by professional natural resources educators and scientists, who are trained to deliver the WIMN course. Training opportunities will be located at Host Organizations — university and college campuses, environmental education centers, and museums across the state.
The curriculum covers eight topic areas (geology, ecology, plants, wildlife, education/interpretation, water, aquatic life, and human influences). Field experiences serve to reinforce classroom learning and provide hands-on learning opportunities for stewardship and citizen science activities. Each chapter of the curriculum includes clear learning objectives; topic background information; suggested places to visit (Explore!) that highlight outdoor examples of chapter content; topic-specific activities (Teach!) which can be used by the volunteers to teach the material; and citizen-science and stewardship organizations (Conserve!) which provide opportunities for volunteering.
A major component of the course is a required service-learning activity called a capstone project. Volunteers work in groups on an education/interpretation, stewardship, or citizen-science project. They create a report about the project, which they present on the last day of class. These capstone projects are bridges to volunteering, introducing participants to informal science education sites that need volunteers; allowing them to undertake useful and challenging projects; providing an opportunity to develop new skills; and ensuring that they use their newly acquired knowledge and skills with mentorship from instructors.
Once trained, Wisconsin Master Naturalist Volunteers provide 40 hours of service and take eight hours of advanced training each year to receive their WIMN pin.
For more about the program see: