Master Naturalist Classes at the Good Zoo

Releasing a tagged monarch butterfly

The beautiful Monarch butterfly is one of the species covered in the Master Naturalist program at the Good Zoo. The program is open to area residents interested in learning more about birds, trees, wildflower identification, and all manner of other nature topics.

Any area residents interested in learning more about birds, trees, wildflower identification, and all manner of other nature topics can sign up now for Master Naturalist classes beginning Saturday, February 22 at the Good Zoo and scheduled through mid May.  Local columnist Dr Scott Shalaway will teach WV Birds. The four hour class discusses bird biology, identification and back-yard feeding.  Popular returning instructor Dr Zac Loughman from West Liberty University will also teach that day, offering General Ecology, an introductory class to the Master Naturalist program. Names and Identification will be taught March 22 by zoo director Penny Miller, instructing students how to use field guides, internet resources, keys, and other resources to identify plants and animals seen in nature.   Other spring classes include Creating Backyard Habitats March 2nd by Dr Candy DeBerry, and three additional classes taught by Loughman: Terrestrial Habitats; Aquatic Habitats; and Wetlands Habitats. Local expert Bill Beatty will teach Wildflowers and Weeds, and Trees, Shrubs and Woody Vines. The first elective class A Tiny Tick Made Me Sick is about avoiding everything from poison ivy rashes, to snake bite while in the woods, taught by Penny Miller.


Students can pick and choose classes at their own pace and may take up to three years to complete the program, but it is possible to finish in one year. Classes cost just $6 per hour of instruction. Classes are held at the zoo on Saturdays and Sundays and often involve walks in the woods and occasional field trips to a farm pasture, wetlands or streams. The curriculum was developed by the West Virginia Division of Wildlife to develop citizen scientists and naturalists across the state.


There are 14 required classes such as Mammals; Trees; Wildflowers;  Backyard Habitat Improvement, Insects, and 10 others, and a variety of electives to choose from including Box turtles; CSI: Citizen Science Investigator; Monarch Butterflies; Nature Photography;  Invasive Species, and many more. Instructors include Good Zoo staff, West Virginia Division of Wildlife biologists and area college professors. Students are all nature lovers and represent a wide range of ages and backgrounds from college students, teachers, scout leaders, farmers, fisherman, to retired folks and nature photographers.


“Anyone of any age or background fits into the group, you just have to be a nature lover,” said Vickie Markey-Tekely, the zoo’s curator of education.


Student Daniel Caron said, “The program is a fun and interesting way to learn about nature.  I enjoy the program’s interactive, hands-on format.  The classes teach me to see something different every time I step outside.  This has helped me when working in my own backyard and everywhere I travel.”


“This is our 11th year, and many of our students participate in several backyard bird projects, put up bluebird boxes, survey and report frog calls, raise and tag monarch butterflies, and improve their garden and property  to attract wildlife,” said Penny Miller, zoo director. Others like to help out at state or zoo wildlife events, or pass on their knowledge to children. “I enjoy teaching my grandkids and neighbors about the monarch butterflies I rear and tag,” said certified Master Naturalist Carol Saseen.


For dates, times, and an application please visit the Master Naturalist section at or call Vickie Markey-Tekely at 304-243-4033 or Penny Miller at 304-243-4027.