University of Maryland Extension

Instructor Guidelines and Class Planning

The Maryland Master Naturalist Program has been designed to:

  • Provide an introduction to Maryland natural history through the eyes of natural resource professionals and experts in the field.
  • Provide an educational opportunity to individuals 18 years of age and older.
  • Provide an opportunity for course participants to establish a short or long-term partnership with a natural resources agency or local organization involved in natural resource management by volunteering as a part of the course.

Instructor Qualifications

  • Must meet the educational requirements mandated by the State Program Coordinator and the Steering Committee.
  • Educational requirements include a minimum of either a Bachelor’s degree in environmental science, education, or related field; or demonstrated comparable practical experience providing environmental education programs.
  • Must submit an Instructor Information Form prior to teaching.
  • Must adhere to the Master Naturalist Program goals and course objectives mandated by the State Program Coordinator and the Steering Committee.
  • Must submit to a performance evaluation by course participants. 
  • Must sign a photo release. 

Instructor Duties

Maryland Master Naturalist program Instructors will work with a Program Facilitator at a designated Host Site.  The facilitator is responsible for coordinating the training at the Host Site where the presentations will be made. Each Instructor will receive an Instructor Welcome Packet which outlines their responsibilities and course requirements.  An Instructor can also be a Master Naturalist trained Program Facilitator which enables them to hold volunteer training sessions at their facilities.

Each Instructor is required to use the Maryland Master Naturalist Volunteer Manual as a basis for training the core subject matter in all training sessions.  Each training session should provide an overview of the subject matter while incorporating local information and facts of interest. 

This can be accomplished through a variety of media such as lectures, PowerPoint presentations, hands-on opportunities, labs, and interactive activities.  Instructors should include actual examples of their topic to help the class participants demonstrate the material to others in their volunteer role.

Volunteer Training Class Participants

Course participants are Maryland citizen 18 years of age and older with a genuine desire to learn about and experience the natural world where they work and play in their community. Instructors will be working with a diverse group of participants in terms of age, experience, and abilities.  The class might include professionals and serious amateurs with varying degrees of environmental knowledge. The participants have enrolled to broaden their awareness of Maryland’s natural resources and they expect to use this knowledge in giving back to their community through volunteer service. Class sizes vary, but will not be less than 10 or will not exceed 25 participants.


Class participants will complete an Instructor Evaluation Form for each instructor.  Completed forms will be kept on file with the Program Facilitator. Copies can be provided to the instructors upon request.  The Program Facilitator will distribute the evaluation form on the first day of class. Class participants will evaluate each instructor at the conclusion of their presentation.  The completed Instructor Evaluation Form will be turned in to the Program Facilitator at the conclusion of the final class.  The feedback from these forms will be helpful in determining whether or not instructors were effective in teaching their topics and can be referred to in planning subsequent training programs.

Sample Outline for a Training Session

Each instructor will be asked to prepare a class that fits the schedule designed by the Program Facilitator. Depending on the topic, sessions could last for a few hours or extend all day. Each training session should include some form of each of these components.

Before class: It is recommended that you work with the Program Facilitator to assign pre-class reading of the manual chapter and any supplemental materials. When participants come to class with background knowledge as a result of this assignment, you will be able to focus your teaching on the details of the subject that are specific to Maryland.

1. Introduce the topic and learning objectives.

2. Give a pre-test: ask a question or two that lead into the lecture (based on learning objectives in the presentation).

3. Present core material via a short PowerPoint presentation, or interactive lecture.

4. Break (approximately every 1 ½ hours).

5. Give facts and examples relating to the local region of Maryland.

6. Conduct an on-site lab activity: indoors/outdoors (individual/group).

• This is very important! Please remember that participants will often be in classes for the entire day, and therefore require a variety of learning activities to maintain interest and enthusiasm.

• A commonly used activity model asks participants to work individually first, then discuss the issue in small groups, and then report their findings to the large group.

• Consider working in the use of specialized tools or reference materials.

• Work with the Program Facilitator to determine options for outdoor activities.

• Plan for inclement weather.

7. Mini-interpretative activity

• Allows participants to use what they have learned and practice presenting information to others.

• A description of a sample activity will be provided.

8. Give a short post-test or quiz and then review the answers with the class.


Qualified individuals willing to instruct a session in a Master Naturalist Training Course should download the Instructor Guidelines and Application (right) and submit it to the State Coordinator. 

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