Maybe you’re like me, and you walk around the woods and remark, “Look at all those pretty… plants!” but you couldn’t tell a white cedar from a poplar if your life depended on it. Or maybe you already know a lot, but your family is tired of your dinnertime speeches against invasive species.  Or maybe you just want more learning in your life.

In any case, you may want to consider becoming a Maryland Master Naturalist. It has a nice ring to it, right? Master Naturalists are specially trained volunteers who have gone through 48 hours of instruction and field training in the ecology, flora, and fauna of Maryland. The classes are taught by university professors and environmental specialists, so you’ll quickly become one of those cool people who walk through the forest and say things like, “Ah! A rare [whatever whatever],” and all your friends and family will be most impressed.

Of course, the intention of the program is not to allow you to lord it over everyone you know. The idea is to provide training to dedicated volunteers who can then organize their own volunteer groups and projects, lead tours, or do other helpful things. In fact, once you’ve been decreed a Master Naturalist, it’s up to you to provide 40 hours a year of volunteer service.  Previous projects have included a children’s book about bluebirds, a tree survey of Howard County parkland, among others.

The fall class in Chevy Chase is already full; registration for the Oct. 6-Nov. 12 course at Oregon Ridge Nature Center ends this week, so apply fast! Or you can hold out for spring classes in Columbia, Frederick County, and Irvine Nature Center in Owings Mills.