Bringing Conservation Home
meets afternoons and has about 35 members, said naturalist Kari Lanning. The evening chapter is also about 50 percent homeschoolers.
"Mostly what I've heard is that they come to programs like this to get the hands-on experience, and at home they do the book work," Lanning said.
How homeschoolers use the programs varies by family. Janiece Siebert, a homeschooling mother in Carthage, uses a textbook-based science course at home, but relies on the Conservation Kids Club at the Springfield Conservation Nature Center to round out her 11-year old son's curriculum.
"They have experiments in science," Siebert said. "They've studied snakes, reptiles, tracking, fur-bearing mammals. The experiment part is essential. It's like doing lab work with science; it deepens their understanding of it."
In southwest Missouri, Elliott Frederick, age 7, has attended the Springfield center's Little Acorns and Conservation Kids Club for several years. His mother, Sheryl Frederick, relies on the program to guide his science education.
"I learn about as much as he does, really," Sheryl said. "He basically gets all his science through the Department of Conservation and Prairie State Park (managed by the Department of Natural Resources). Generally they cover most of it, more than I can."
Back at the stream table, Naturalist Andrea Putnam begins a lesson on stream erosion and conservation. By the time she is finished, the kids have straightened the stream, drowned a couple of plastic cows, demolished the silo and learned the importance of careful farming practices. Tim and Natalie Anderson plunge in with the other kids, sculpting the stream into a new course. Beside them, their mother, Theresa Anderson, asks questions and occasionally prods her children for an answer. While the kids play in the water, Putnam holds up for inspection a shovel-nosed sturgeon, an ancient species of fish that inhabits the river where they will soon venture. Natalie soaks up the information. These events, she said, help her identify the plants and animals she encounters in the natural world.
As rain continues to fall, volunteer leader Judith Lambayan shepherds her group through the mud to the boat ramp where an MDC johnboat waits to take them on the river. Anderson starts chatting with the woman across from her, Carol Hansen, and quickly discovers that she has also homeschooled her children. The boat beaches on a sandbar. Tim and his new friends march off with sticks to leave their marks on the