The Florida Master Naturalist Program is a 40-hour experiential learning course offered by UF IFAS Extension. While we spend time in class with presentations, by far everyone’s favorite aspects of the course are field trips and “project day.” As part of the course, each participant produces an educational tool—a display, presentation, skit, or lesson—that delves deeper into a topic of interest. The students and instructors are able to use these tools again and again to teach others.
One example of a multi-year student project is “The Way” nature trail, located at Perdido Bay United Methodist Church. Master Naturalist Jerry Patee worked with volunteers from his church and community to design and permit a boardwalk and nature trail leading to Bayou Garcon. The unique trail is less than a mile, but traverses upland, freshwater wetland, and coastal habitats, making it a perfect ecological teaching tool. The trail is open to the public and maintained as a place of quiet contemplation. The project is ongoing, with educational signage planned, but it is an excellent new resource for the community.
“The Way” is just one of many positive contributions made by Master Naturalist students over the years. To enroll in a Florida Master Naturalist course near you, visit the FMNP page or talk with an instructor at your local county Extension office.