University of Maryland Extension

The Online Course

Registration for the Fall session of the course is now closed. The next scheduled offering will be in March, 2021. Please check back for more details. Click here for a preview of the course.

 Learn more on our "Frequently Asked Questions" page.


Online course logoSince the publication of the first edition of The Woods in Your Backyard: Learning to Create and Enhance Natural Areas Around Your Home in 2006, thousands of property owners in the Mid-Atlantic region have purchased the guide and attended workshops to learn more about caring for the natural habitats on their land. The guide is now in its second edition; to learn more about the latest edition and to order, please go here.

The University of Maryland Extension now offers the guide’s materials and activities, and much more, as an online course. The self-paced, self-directed, non-credit course is built on a cross-platform, cloud-based learning management system called Canvas, so it is equally accessible to users of Windows, Mac, and Linux systems. Please note that Canvas is optimized for desktop displays, so viewing the course content on smaller devices (such as tablets or iPads) or on mobile phones may less effective. See the Canvas Guide document, "Which browsers does Canvas support?"

The course promotes the stewardship of small parcels of land for the personal enjoyment of the owners, and improved environmental quality for society. If you own 1 to 10 acres in the Eastern United States that is forested or has unmowed natural areas, this course is for you. It is for you if you have a mowed lawn area that you want to turn into a woodland. It is also for you if you are a land manager or part of a group that manages natural areas, such as a preserve or a community woodland.

* The Maryland State Master Gardener Office approves "The Woods in Your Backyard" online course to meet the Master Gardener continuing education requirement.

* The Maryland State Master Naturalist Office sanctions "The Woods in Your Backyard" to meet the Master Naturalist continuing education requirement, pending approval by their Program Facilitator.


Click on the images below or go here for a preview of the course. 

Sample video from "Introduction to The Woods in Your Backyard"


Screenshot of online course page
Sample page from "The Concept of Habitat Units"


Sample video from "Modifying or Improving Habitat" (2 minutes)

 Screenshot of online course page

Sample page from "Water Resources and Your Natural Area"


Sample video from "Identifying Your Trees and Shrubs" (4 minutes)



Participants will learn why they should manage their land; the basics of tree identification, forestry, and wildlife habitat management; how to choose a few land management projects to meet their goals; and how to set a timetable and record their progress.

The course includes:

  • Sections of readings assembled into five thematically-related modules that parallel the printed The Woods in Your Backyard guide
  • Activities that can be completed on line via downloadable Portable Document Format (PDF) files, or via the Workbook.
  • Quizzes that assess understanding of the topics presented, and short videos that introduce you to fellow woodland owners and illustrate key topics and techniques.
  • Examples from three case families that will offer different perspectives on natural area projects.

All course materials are accessible in your Internet browser through Instructure's Canvas content learning management system. 

With a paid enrollment, each participant receives a print copy of The Woods in Your Backyard (2nd edition), The Woods in Your Backyard Workbook, and Common Native Trees of Virginia Tree Identification Guide. Participants who successfully complete the quizzes and the required activities receive a certificate of completion from the University of Maryland Extension.

For more information, contact Andrew Kling at the University of Maryland Extension Western Maryland Research & Education Center, 18330 Keedysville Road, Keedysville MD 21756; by phone at 301-432-2767 ext. 307; or email

Click here to see a sample of the online course. Learn more on our "Frequently Asked Questions" page.


Maintained by the IET Department of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. © 2021. Web Accessibility

University programs, activities, and facilities are available to all without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, marital status, age, national origin, political affiliation, physical or mental disability, religion, protected veteran status, genetic information, personal appearance, or any other legally protected class. If you need a reasonable accommodation to participate in any event or activity, please contact your local University of Maryland Extension Office.