The course is designed to be a hands-on learning experience with a mixture of lectures, presented by local subject matter experts, and practical skill. Courses run for 18-weeks and meet weekly for 3-hour sessions. A mid-term practical exam and a capstone project due at the end of the course are required and must be passed with an 80%. There are weekly reflective homework assignments that also must be submitted for certification. In order to become certified the trainee must have achieved the equivalent of 60-hours in the classroom.
Regardless of the type of volunteer work choosen (independent field work or education/public speaking), the Arizona Master Naturalist Association supports a systems-based approach to learning and requires participants to be familiar with the tenants of environmental education and interpretation as outlined by Arizona Association for Environmental Education (arizonaee.org), an Affiliate of the North American Association for Environmental Education (naaee.org), and the National Association for Interpretation (interpnet.com).
During the 18-week course trainees must also participate in scheduled field experiences. Instructors have designed field work to include citizen science, stewardship, and educational experiences as well as a real-world examination of the local ecosystem. Field experiences also include skills work such as species identification, program delivery and management, leadership, and outdoor safety. Both the field experience and classroom content prepare the trainee to become an active leader in natural resource volunteer service rather than a passive participant absorbing knowledge.
To become fully certified the trainee must complete 10 hours of advanced training (continuing education) within a year of beginning their certification. Advanced training experiences are offered by the local chapter as well as Natural Resource Community Partners.