Vermont Master Naturalist for Educators

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Instructors: Sean Beckett, Alicia Daniel, & Guest Instructors
June 24 - 28, 2024 | $1300 ($1750 with 3 graduate credits)
Class Size: 16 students
See below for financial support information


his unique collaboration between North Branch Nature Center and Vermont Master Naturalist is a place-based, integrated training in interpreting the local landscape and applying that training to the 5th-12th grade classroom and curricula. Each day immerses in a different ecosystem, exploring the pieces, patterns, and processes driving local ecology. We’ll practice field-based activities and classroom-based extensions aligned with Next Generation Science Standards and Proficiency-Based Learning frameworks.

Each day focuses on a different “layer” of the landscape, beginning with the bedrock beneath our feet, and ending with the birdlife flying above. Topics will include geology, glacial history, soils, botany, rivers and wetlands, and wildlife. Each day will present ecological puzzles that will be teased apart by participants through each day’s explorations.

By the end of the week, participants will be equipped with a deeper repertoire of naturalist skills as well as a range of resources, activities, and frameworks to understand and teach about Vermont ecology and conservation. No prerequisite naturalist training is required– only a love of the natural world and a healthy dose of curiosity.

This course is about reconnecting with nature, re-imagining nature-based teaching and learning at the middle and high school level, and cultivating a community of educators passionate about exploring and understanding our wild world.

Course Goals

  • Pieces: Gain comfort identifying the characteristic residents of the Vermont woods, including birds, trees, plants, rocks, mammals, and insects.
  • Patterns: Become familiar recognizing and interpreting the particular distribution of species and their habitats across the landscape.
  • Processes: Explore how landscape patterns are driven by factors like precipitation, slope, human disturbance, temperature, climate change, beaver dynamics, and more.
  • Partners: Cultivate relationships with educators and conservation professionals to enrich student engagement in nature-related curricula.
  • Proficiencies: Explore alignment of ecological and nature-based curriculum with Next Generation Science Standards and Proficiency-based Learning.

Course Objectives

  • Practice standards-aligned, field- and classroom-based activities designed to study local species and ecosystems.
  • Engage with state ecologists and conservation organizations.
  • Practice using digital tools such as iNaturalist, Seek, eButterfly, and eBird to aid in species identification and contribution to Citizen Science.
  • Practice using written guides to identify plant species and categorize natural communities.
  • Visit a key suite of Vermont’s Natural Community Types, and become familiar using the Natural Community concept to explain ecological and biotic/abiotic systems in Vermont.
  • Explore strategies for building written and digital tools into classroom extensions of field-based activities.

For more about Vermont Master Naturalist, visit:

Students will receive a Tier 1 Vermont Master Naturalist certificate at the conclusion of this course.

About the Instructor(s)

North Branch Nature Center is a nationally recognized leader in nature-based education for children and adults. Our place-based and inquiry-based philosophy recognizes nature as our most dynamic, enriching, rigorous, and inclusive classroom. Healthy, inspired learning and development depends on immersive, curiosity-driven nature exploration, cultivated by expert teaching and mentorship. From our acclaimed Forest Preschool and Educating Children Outdoors (ECO) flagship programs, to our summer camps, community workshops, and professional institutes, NBNC offers a lifetime of learning and growth through deepened connections with the environment.

This program's primary instructors are NBNC Program Director and Staff Naturalist Sean Beckett, and VMN founder and director, Alicia Daniel.

Recommended Texts

  • Thompson, E.H., Sorensen, E., and Zaino, R. Wetland, Woodland, Wildland: A Guide to Natural Communities of Vermont. 2019 edition.
  • Maine Forest Service. Forest Trees of Maine
  • Wessels, Tom. Reading the Forested Landscape: A Natural History of New England
  • Newcomb, L. 1989, Newcomb's Wildflower Guide.

Lodging Options

There are several nearby hotels within 20 minutes of North Branch Nature Center, as well as a range of AirBnB options. Camping onsite is available by permission.


Participants should bring their own lunch and snacks.


Course runs June 24 - 28, 2024, from 8:30 am until 4:00 pm each day. The course will convene at different field sites in Central Vermont each morning. Start times will be delayed as-needed to accommodate driving distance to field sites. Course begins at North Branch Nature Center in Montpelier, Vermont.

Academic Credit / Professional Development Options

This course qualifies for 3 graduate-level education or science credits for an additional $450 course fee. Course is accredited by Vermont State University Center for Schools.

For students transferring credit to another institution, it is each student’s responsibility to ensure that their home institution will accept the credit.

Participants pursuing academic credit will be required to complete an additional assignment focused on curriculum development.

All participants qualify for 40 hours of professional development hours and continuing education units. Certificates of completion are provided at the conclusion of the course.

Cancellation Policy

While we realize that unexpected circumstances arise that are out of our control, North Branch Nature Center cannot guarantee refunds for registrations cancelled within 30 days of the course.  If a cancellation occurs within this window, NBNC will, if possible, attempt to fill the space from our wait list and provide a full refund.

School Purchase Orders

It is the participant’s responsibility to submit a purchase order request to their school immediately upon registration, and to provide a purchase order number to NBNC in a timely manner. Participants must have either provided NBNC a purchase order number or contacted NBNC to arrange this, within 7 days of registration.

Financial Aid

Vermont residents are encouraged to apply for a VSAC Advancement Grant. Please contact us ([email protected]) to inquire about other financial aid options.

North Branch Nature Center

713 Elm Street
Montpelier, Vermont 05602
(802) 229-6206

Hours: Center Open Monday-Friday 9-4
Trails Open 24/7