Blue Ridge Naturalist (BRN) Certificate of Merit students complete core and elective courses on ecology, botany, geology, zoology, plant identification and more. Classes are listed below by calendar month with new core and elective classes added each month. Classes meet year round online, onsite and in the field.

Click here for a current Course Overview for the BRN Certificate of Merit program. 

Many of the classes below can also count toward Criteria II or III credit for the NC Environmental Education Certification Program.

For more information: 

  • Regarding BRN certification:  Contact Adult Education Programs Manager Rebecca Caldwell at rcaldwell@ncarboretum.org .
  • Regarding counting courses toward your NC EE Certificate:  Contact Teacher Education Coordinator Michelle Pearce at mpearce@ncarboretum.org

Summer Courses Online | Onsite | Field

  • ONLINE  Four Sessions: Tuesdays and Thursdays, June 1 – 10; 10 – 11 a.m.

    BRN Core; NC EE Criteria 3

    Water flow across a diverse geological framework shapes the Earth’s surface. The process of surface water flow and the earth’s response to this flow is investigated across three physiographic provinces, including the Blue Ridge, Piedmont, Coastal Plains/Continental Shelf. Processes and responses include erosion, sediment transport, and formation of associated depositional environments.

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  • ONSITE  Thursday, June 17; 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.

    BRN Elective; NC EE Criteria 2

    Many insects spend their egg and larval stages in local streams, ponds and rivers. This immersive field experience starts at Willow Pond, the Arboretum’s new outdoor educational center, and ends at an area set aside for research at Bent Creek. Learn to identify and understand Benthic Macroinvertebrates that spend most of their lives in or on the water. Studying their life cycles and sampling various parts of a watershed can tell us about the health of our local and regional water ecology.  You’ll get plenty of feet-in-water and hands-on-nets time in this class!

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  • ONLINE  Wednesdays, June 16, 23, 30, July 7 and 14; 1 – 2:30 p.m.

    BRN Core; NC EE Criteria 3

    Learn to identify seasonal native mountain flora using a non-technical keying system, while studying the characteristics of plant families, the basics of plant community and the natural and the cultural history of the flora of the Blue Ridge. Presented online with plant lists and pointers provided for conducting observations in the “field,” whether that’s your own yard or neighborhood, at the Arboretum or sighted off trails in the region. Small-group walks with Instructor Scott Dean will be scheduled for experience in the field.

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  • ONLINE  Tuesday, March 16; 1 to 2:30 p.m.

    BRN Elective; NC EE Criteria 3

    Watch your Step! Don’t touch that! Is it poisonous? Take your knowledge beyond “leaves of three, let them be,” and learn to look for outdoor hazards including bees and other stinging insects, venomous snakes and spiders, ticks, poisonous plants and mushrooms. These and more covered in this two-part online survey course that prepares you to enjoy summer without the sting.

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  • ONLINE  Tuesday, July 20; 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

    BRN Elective; NC EE Criteria 3

    The Southern Appalachians are home to dozens of shrubs and woody vines, many of which are often overlooked and unknown by the average person. This class helps students gain the skills to identify many of these plants and learn about their importance to the ecology of mountain forests.

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  • ONSITE  Friday, July 23; 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

    Woody Vines and Shrubs of WNC (Online) is recommended 

    BRN Elective; NC EE Criteria 2

    The Southern Appalachians are home to dozens of shrubs and woody vines, many of which are often overlooked and unknown by the average person. This class helps students gain the skills to identify many of these plants and learn about their importance to the ecology of mountain forests.

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  • ONLINE  Tuesday, July 27; 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

    BRN Core; NC EE Criteria 3

    North Carolina’s lush mountain forests are home to dozens of species of trees. In this course, students will learn how to identify many of these species based on habitats, individual characteristics, and uses by humans and wildlife. The instructor’s invaluable course materials, developed over decades, are included for students to practice identifying trees and woody shrubs in the field. An optional field experience is offered separately.

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  • ONSITE

    Summer Native Tree Identification (Online) is recommended

    BRN Elective; NC EE Criteria 2

    North Carolina’s lush mountain forests are home to dozens of species of trees. In this field experience based in the Arboretum’s forest, students will gain practice identifying trees and woody shrubs as well gaining a deeper understanding of different forest types encountered at the Arboretum.

    LEARN MORE  Section A: Thursday, July 29; 9 to 11 a.m.

    LEARN MORE  Section B: Saturday, July 31; 9 to 11 a.m.

Registration will Open July 1 for Upcoming Fall Term Courses. Look for a variety of electives in all subject areas taught by core Naturalist faculty. 

Fall Term Core  BRN Courses include the following:  Geology of the Blue Ridge (August), Ecology of the Blue Ridge (September), Climate Change Science and Meteorological Systems (October), Natural History Interpretation (October), Fall Color and Native Tree Identification (October). Two separate versions of Fall Flora Identification will be offered beginning in September: Online (with an optional field experience) or Field-Based (with guided small-group hikes to various locations in the region).