Wolf Ridge

Naturalist / Environmental Educator

Live, learn & teach in a community of over thirty skilled environmental educators and naturalists. Join the broader community of over 800 alumni scattered across the globe serving as college professors, natural resource professionals, directors of nature centers and camps, school teachers, scientists, state and national park naturalists, writers, adventurers, and artists.

Each week you could be teaching six classes, working on coursework for UMD classes, serving as a liaison for a visiting group and all the while trying to find time to play and stay current with your email. Though the schedule can be demanding, if you enjoy a little chaos and love the outdoors, Wolf Ridge might be worth looking into. For more information or to apply, contact Joe Walewski.

There are several naturalist positions. While all include teaching, working with school groups, and graduate coursework in both natural history studies and environmental education, each position also has a unique focus.


Learn how to teach while teaching outdoors. The graduate level certificate program serves as the core of our program. Students teach children and adults, track lynx, develop lessons, explore north shore geology, and much more. In addition to gaining 10 months of practical experience, students earn up to 12 credits that can be applied to Master’s programs across the nation. For more information or to apply, contact Joe Walewski.


The way the program works

Everything you do here is connected to a credit. Whether you’re teaching, attending a seminar, or walking through the woods looking at plants, you’re receiving credit. Many of the courses overlap and are intertwined and are intended to enhance other courses.


That means you’ll play many roles here…



After the initial two weeks of staff training, you begin teaching. An average week consists of six half-day classes from Monday through Friday, plus an average of one weekend a month. The classes cover topics in cultural history, natural history and adventure education. Your students will typically range from 4th grade to 12th grade.



Evaluations of your teaching, observing natural phenomenon, discussions with peers, creating lesson plans, attending seminars … all of these things will help you learn about the field of environmental education and how to be effective as an educator. As a student you take courses all year, yet those courses could be bird banding, plant identification hikes, lecture, tapping maple trees, reading environmental literature. You will be surrounded by learning opportunities and directed towards many. It is also up to you to take advantage of those that inspire and challenge you.



Every day you’ll be outdoors teaching about trees, beavers, aquatic critters, mammals, etc. You won’t be able to help yourself from learning the natural history of the area. You’ll also attend seminars on specific subjects such as: botany, aquatics, tracking, weather, birds, astronomy, geology, cultural history, amphibians, etc. Our intention is to wave goodbye to a confident naturalist at the end of the year. These seminars speed you on your way.


Community member

We are a small community up here of 60 staff. We lean on each other often. We are responsible to and for each other. Part of the program is experiencing the challenges and highlights of being in a community. The personal growth can be tremendous.


Who will be your teachers?

  • Seasoned naturalists
  • University of Minnesota-Duluth professors
  • The school children that attend Wolf Ridge
  • The natural world
  • You

Nut and Bolts

Wolf Ridge is dedicated not only to teaching school children; we are also committed to teaching teachers. Through an intense experiential graduate program we train “student naturalists” to be effective environmental educators. For nine months these student naturalists live and learn environmental education. It’s tough, but participants emerge from the experience with the skills needed to excel as a naturalist and to be effective as an educator.

For more information or to apply, contact Joe Walewski.



Late August to early June. Graduates may have the opportunity for paid work in the summer.



Students earn a scholarship, room, board, and individually designed training by teaching classes to school children from all over Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North Dakota. The total cost for tuition and fees at UMD are the responsibility of each student. This cost is determined by the University of MN during the summer. All payments for credits are directed to UMD. Scholarships are available for students who could not otherwise participate in the program.


Cooperating institution

University of Minnesota-Duluth



You will receive a Certificate of Environmental Education with 12 credits towards a Masters of Education. For more information, see the University of Minnesota Duluth Center for Environmental Education website.



  • Field Interpretive Techniques
  • Outdoor Education Methods
  • Theories and Models of Environmental Education
  • Environmental Issues Investigation
  • Classroom Learning Applications

wildlife naturalist

Spend time each week focusing on the care and management of Wolf Ridge’s education animals.

  • Participate as a member of our Graduate Naturalist Training program.
  • Teach wildlife and other classes to K-12 school children and other groups.
  • Please contact Erin Manning, our Animal Care Coordinator, for more details.

student teaching naturalist

Practice teaching in and out of the classroom. Wolf Ridge is committed to bridging the gap between formal and non-formal education. Undergraduate education students can gain experience by both teaching at Wolf Ridge and also completing a teaching practicum to earn their teaching license. The experience outside of student teaching is as described in the “NATURALIST” tab above. For more information or to apply, contact Joe Walewski.


Our partnerships thus far include

  • Gustavus Adolphus
  • University of Minnesota – Duluth
  • Winona State University
  • Your school – we are willing to work with new schools to expand our partnerships


mentor naturalist

If one year at Wolf Ridge as a naturalist just isn’t enough for you, you might consider applying to be an Mentor Naturalist. This program is designed for naturalists who have already completed a year as a naturalist, wildlife naturalist, or student teaching naturalist at Wolf Ridge. Each year 4 naturalists are selected to stay on for a second year. Spend this year mentoring 16 new naturalists as they teaching and exploring on the North Shore.


Develop leadership skills for education

Past participants in other Wolf Ridge training programs can spend a second year working alongside our program staff on authentic tasks within the field of environmental education. They design apprenticeships focusing on supervision and training, program development, animal handling, fundraising, curriculum maintenance, marketing, and more.

“I leave Wolf Ridge with the realization that one is never finished learning and developing and with a new eagerness to learn, to develop myself, and to explore.”

–Nienke Beintema, Former Graduate Student Naturalist