Guest post by Master Naturalist Danielle Lattuga

I was wandering around up high on Mount Jumbo this morning, admiring all the larkspur, balsamroot, prairie stars, lupine, and paintbrush in bloom. Yes! The paintbrush is in bloom already, and it literally glowed like flame against the deep gray of the clouds. From those same clouds emerged the stout shape of a bald eagle, the white of its tail feathers glimmering and flickering—so far out of reach. I didn’t care when little drops of rain splatted on my head. My day was already complete.

Indian paintbrush and arrowleaf balsamroot on Mount Jumbo

photo by Danielle Lattuga

I didn’t need a Master Naturalist class to enjoy my walk on the mountain, nor did I need it to learn the names of all that I admire. I was born with a love of the natural world and I firmly believe that any person can learn without any formal training, if they have enough interest. But that’s not what the Master Naturalist class is about. Its very existence is based on the premise that participants will bring a love of and interest in nature with them.

So, why did I take the Summer Master Naturalist Certification Course?

  • I am not a scientist, but I wanted to gain a deeper knowledge about the environment I live in and the landscape that I love.
  • I am a writer, and, as the saying goes, we writers tend to know a little bit about a lot of things. And frankly, I have a lot of interests and only enough discipline (and time) to really dive into a couple of them at a time. So, the class seemed to fit my bill.
  • Some of the coolest people on the planet are naturalists. Hello, Terry Tempest Williams?! Seriously, though, she is one of my greatest inspirations, and I had never heard the term naturalist until I heard of her.
  • I’ve already earned the title of Garden Commander from my husband and I just really like the sound of Danielle Lattuga: Master Naturalist, Garden Commander.

What did I get out of the class?

  • For starters, I got to geek out on nature (and in nature) for five days, with a bunch of other geeks. And I mean that in the kindest way. It was really a blast to learn alongside other adults who share a passion for the natural world and who brought their own knowledge and experience with them.
  • I learned from a variety of highly skilled naturalists and teachers about a diversity of topic areas—which kept every day exciting. I’m not kidding. I was pregnant at the time and that week was probably the only week in 10 months that I was up and out of bed with the sun. Some might even say I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.
  • I gained a more comprehensive language for describing the natural world, which not only enhanced my writing, but also enabled me to more effectively share my knowledge and passion with others.
  • I was given more tools for interpreting and exploring the natural world on my own. This was not about learning names; it was about becoming a better observer and enjoying the process of discovery.
  • I became part of the MNHC community in a way that helps me to continue with my learning, while also lending my support. It’s enabled me to use my best talents, while honing my skills to become a better interpreter and nurture the curiosity of others regarding our fascinating and baffling natural world.

If you have an interest in Montana’s summer jewels—flowers/trees, birds, and insects—this class will surely enhance your knowledge and ignite your curiosity. The intensive nature of it helped me to truly immerse myself in the material and to look at my home of 20 years with fresh eyes. Somehow, it felt like a little vacation in one of the places I love the most.

master naturalist students studying montana's flora

Other Master Naturalists enjoyed (and heartily recommend) the course, too:

“I loved this class—this is the exact kind of learning that works best for me.”

“The Master Naturalist class is a super accessible, fun, and informative way to learn about our local ecosystems and environment.”

“Christine is a wonderful instructor! She’s funny, knowledgeable, and a total fellow nature geek. She gets excited about what you’re excited about, and then helps you learn about it. It was wonderful, too, to be with a whole group of people who care about and are fascinated by the natural world.”

“I’ve always loved nature, but this class helped me see it in a new way and to notice things I hadn’t before.”

We still have space available in our Summer 2017 Montana Master Naturalist Course! Click HERE for more information and to register!



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