The sun was shining, the children were laughing, and Smokey Bear was warming up to throw the first pitch at Hammons Field, home to the Springfield Cardinals baseball team. On Tuesday, MDC hosted an Education Day at the ballpark for around 1,100 area school children and their teachers.
The top of the dugout made a perfect staging area for the staff of the Springfield Conservation Nature Center led by their manager, Linda Chorice. Through baseball-themed skits, games and videos, the children learned about healthy habitats. The Springfield Cardinals' mascot, Louie, joined in to help demonstrate how animals need a “home base” with food, water, shelter and space.
MDC staff used the baseball connection to help the kids discover nature at the ballpark, in their neighborhoods and farther afield. The interactive skit showed that, like ballplayers in a ballpark, habitats change throughout the seasons, can only support a certain number of individuals, and that every animal has a niche or unique job to do to survive. “One of the keys to interpretation is to know your audience and make it relevant,” said Linda, “and the Cardinals partnership helped get the conservation message out.” Her skit partner, MDC Media Specialist Francis Skalicky, added, “These events reach a lot of people in one place with an educational message that is entertaining.”
Judging by the reactions, this event hit one out of the park. The kids were shouting out answers, singing and dancing and oohing and ahhing over the jumbo-screen videos of animals showing off their habitats and special skills.
For the children it was a day outside to learn about nature, enjoy a hot dog and watch a ballgame. According to Francis, “We are reaching future conservationists because the best time to get the message out is when they are young.” Teachers were given packets for the kids including MDC’s Xplor magazine, animal stickers, and bookmarks.
The Springfield Conservation Nature Center provides opportunities for people of all ages to connect with and learn about nature. They give more than 800 programs each year reaching more than 34,000 people.
The event was capped off by Smokey Bear throwing out the first pitch.