Become a volunteer safety instructor
Volunteering at the DNR
Volunteer instructors are key to having successful education programs. The volunteers are motivated people who have an interest in recreational safety and who are willing to donate a few hours of their time each year to teach safety education classes in your area. Becoming a volunteer instructor is a great way to help save lives, prevent injuries, meet people in your community and positively influence the attitudes and actions of other resource users.
Certification as a volunteer instructor is and must continue to be considered both an honor and a privilege. Both as a group and as individuals, instructors represent a proud and honorable tradition of volunteer citizen involvement in providing community service.
After teaching a traditional course for 10+ years, I was skeptical about the level of instruction that a one-day course would provide. Our group has been offering the online field day style class for 4 years now and the level of competency of our graduates has not suffered one bit. Not to mention that this style makes it much easier to recruit both students and instructors during today's busy times.
—Chris Kaplan, Fort Atkinson
Qualifications of a certified volunteer instructor
- Be at least 18 years of age
- Must have some experience in the specific program of interest
- Be a graduate of the student course in Wisconsin for the safety education program
- Demonstrate a willingness to devote the necessary time and effort to carry out program responsibilities
- Demonstrate the abilities necessary to perform the duties and responsibilities of a Wisconsin DNR volunteer instructor
- Demonstrate a sincere interest in facilitating course ethics based upon responsibility and respect
- Pass a background check
- Serves as an apprentice under a sponsoring instructor with an instructor group
- Must assist teaching a minimum of two complete courses
- Be recommended by a certified instructor for full certification
- Complete instructor certification process
One or two-day certification training session:
- Attend and successfully complete a certification training session such as a clinic or academy hosted or approved by an outdoor skills trainer
- Complete instructor certification process
Applicants must complete the certification process:
- Meet instructor qualifications (see qualifications above);
- Find a certified instructor in your area to sponsor you;
- Complete and submit the apprentice application, Form 8500-161;
- Pass an initial background check per NR 19.30;
- Complete and submit the apprentice instructor exam supplied by your sponsor;
- Submit the instructor training record and application, Form 8500-162 completed by you and your sponsor; and
- Pass a local background check conducted by the conservation warden in your area.
At the very core of every ATV, boat, snowmobile or hunter education course are safety, ethics and responsibility. Snowmobile and ATV courses last a minimum of 6 hours, boating 8 hours and hunter education 10 hours. Often, courses last several hours longer and may take place on weekday evenings or on weekends. Students enrolled in a course will be exposed to a vast array of topics for that particular activity.
For example, in hunter education, students will learn about our hunting heritage and safe gun handling and also about marksmanship, game care and the environment. In ATV and snowmobile courses students will learn about their machines, how to ride and operating techniques while boater safety students gain knowledge about boating techniques and navigation rules that will keep them safe on the water.
In order to remain an active certified volunteer instructor, you must participate in teaching at least one class every two years. In addition, all instructors must meet a continuing education requirement by attending approved training once every three years. Training is usually hosted or approved by outdoor skills trainers. Most instructors work in teams, under the leadership of a lead volunteer instructor who sets up the courses and pulls the teaching team together.
Depending on your skills, comfort level and knowledge, you will be asked to assist in several ways at a course, from organizing paperwork, helping small groups of students in a hands-on exercise or providing instruction to the entire class. The lead volunteer instructor will work with you to determine what meets your needs as well as the needs of the course.
Other ways to contribute
Volunteer instructors have reviewed materials and equipment for possible use in programs, submitted articles for newsletters and volunteered for special public outdoor events. The ways in which a volunteer instructor can contribute to these programs are numerous, limited only by your skills, time and availability.
Personal satisfaction: As the name "volunteer" implies, you as an instructor are compensated in the satisfaction of knowing that what you are doing is important, that your contribution may save lives and positively influence the attitudes and actions of those who share or will share the outdoors with you. While there is no monetary benefit from teaching our safety programs, you will be respected by your students and recognized as a leader in your community.
Already a Volunteer Instructor?
Visit the Volunteer Instructor Corner - The volunteer instructor corner is a convenient place to find all the resources you'll need as a certified safety program instructor.
If you are interested in becoming a volunteer instructor please contact your local outdoor skills trainer.