Adult Programs

Master Naturalist Intensive Training  (Online and in person)

Gain the knowledge and skills you need to share the natural world with others in this intensive workshop format.

Content Detail

Gain the knowledge and skills you need to share the natural world with others in this intensive workshop format. Through a combination of online coursework and field time, you will:

  • gain an understanding of Illinois natural history (geology, plants, and wildlife) and its cultural history (Native American history and how humans have shaped the landscape),
  • learn the fundamentals of botany, ecology, and conservation,
  • enhance your love of nature by spending time on the Arboretum’s 1,700 acres, including its prairie, woodland, and wetland habitats,
  • participate in guided hikes to learn about native trees, birds, wildflowers, and more,
  • develop interpretive skills so you can educate and inspire others, and
  • learn from expert instructors and build your network in the naturalist community.

Who is this training for?

This program is great for teachers, natural areas stewards, students age 18 and older who are interested in pursuing a career in the outdoors, and those working in informal nature education. There are two ways to benefit from this program:

  • Grow your skills as a naturalist by simply completing this training.
  • Pursue the Master Naturalist Certificate by completing this training and fulfilling additional requirements (see Additional Requirements for Certification below).

What is a naturalist?

A naturalist is an expert in or student of natural history. Naturalists are continuous learners, studying the natural world and learning about the different interconnections between wildlife and their habitats. Naturalists strive to connect people with nature by sharing their knowledge with others. 

What is the Master Naturalist Program?

The University of Illinois Extension Master Naturalist program provides science-based educational opportunities that connect people with nature and help them become engaged environmental stewards. The Program educates and trains adult volunteers to help disseminate natural resource information to the public and to assist with conservation and restoration activities in their community. Learn more here.

What topics are covered?

The 20 hours of online coursework and 20 hours of in-person learning will cover the following topics:

  • Introduction to the Illinois Master Naturalist Program 
  • Indigenous History of Northeast Illinois 
  • Basic Plant ID
  • Basic Tree ID
  • Native Plant ID
  • Bird ID
  • Illinois Amphibians and Reptiles 
  • Illinois Mammals
  • Ecosystem Concepts 
  • Illinois’ Natural Landscapes 
  • Environmental Ethics and Philosophy 
  • Tallgrass Prairie Habitat
  • Woodlands Habitat
  • Wetlands Habitat
  • Interpretive Techniques 

Training in these topics will give you a well-rounded understanding of Illinois’ natural landscapes and the skills to share this understanding with others. 

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How Online Learning Works:

  • On the day the class begins, you will receive instructions for accessing TreeLearning, the Arboretum’s online learning portal, and you have access to the class for 60 days.
  • Log into to complete self-paced activities, such as e-learning modules, reading material, short videos, interactive activities, and quizzes to check your understanding. 
  • The self-paced activities do not need to be completed in one sitting, and your instructor will not be online with you. 
  • Your class includes scheduled live sessions with your instructors. These sessions will take place on Zoom. To access the live session, log into TreeLearning, click on your class, and go to “Web Conferences.” Click on the link to join.

Additional Requirements for Certification

For those that wish to become a Certified Master Naturalist Volunteer through the University of Illinois Extension, please read these requirements carefully.  To pursue certification , you must:

  • Register by July 12. 
  • Choose “Master Naturalist Certification” at checkout ($45 administrative fee). 
  • Purchase the Illinois Master Naturalist manual ($125) during the checkout process. You may pick up your manual at The Morton Arboretum or the local Extension office after July 20.
  • Complete an application process, which includes a criminal background check. The application will be sent by email from the Extension office in mid-July.
  • Complete this training course, which satisfies the 40-hour training requirement. 
  • Complete nightly reading assignments (approximately one hour per night) and submit a final project entailing a script or video of a three-minute talk on a naturalist topic of your choosing. Details will be provided the first day of class. 
  • Complete 60 hours of volunteer work within two years of enrollment, which must be coordinated through the Extension office. 


  • If you are interested in pursuing certification, you must enroll by July 12. 
  • Non Certificate enrollment closes August 2. 
  • If you do not wish to pursue certification, you may still purchase the manual, though it is not required. 
  • Some coursework is online; access to a computer is required. 
  • Onsite classes held outdoors. Wear comfortable shoes and dress for the weather. Bring water and snacks, and a lunch each day. If you would like to take notes, bring a notebook and pen. A camp stool and sun and insect protection are recommended.
  • Limit 20

Recommended Text:

All participants, whether pursuing the certificate or not, may wish to purchase a copy of Kane County Wild Plants and Natural Areas by Dick Young, available here and here

Required Text:

Illinois Master Naturalist Manual ($125) is required for those pursuing certification. It is optional for all other participants. Place your order for this manual during checkout. Directions for manual pickup will be sent to purchasers

COVID-19 Precautions:

  • If you are unwell, or have been in contact with someone who is unwell in the last two weeks, you must stay home. A full refund will be issued on request.
  • Participants who are not vaccinated or are partly vaccinated must wear a face mask and practice social distancing, indoors and outdoors. Face masks and social distancing are optional for fully vaccinated individuals.
  • By attending Arboretum programs without a face mask, you are affirming that you are fully vaccinated (at least two weeks have passed since your final shot).


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