Discovering Nature In The City

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Published on: Nov. 2, 2002

Last revision: Nov. 12, 2010

William Clark did during their Corps of Discovery journey along the Missouri River from 1804 to 1806.

The Discovery Center is a tribute to the knowledge this expedition brought back to the East. A statue of the original Corps of Discovery is in the center's lobby, along with a mural showing how a bend in the Missouri River, (in present-day downtown Kansas City) probably looked in the early 1800s. In the workshops, the students study how the Kansas City area has changed since the expedition passed through.

In "Nature's Aquarium," a watershed model is based on the Missouri and Blue rivers and Brush Creek, which is just south of the Discovery Center. The interchangeable panels show how the stream would look in three different stages: (1) pre-settlement, (2) urbanization, with lots of concrete and no thought of runoff and flood, and (3) urbanization, with conservation practices, such as parking lots slanted away from the creek and with green spaces full of plants that retain moisture.

Michael Paiva, a volunteer at the Discovery Center, flipped a switch, and water showered down on the model. A group of children from Hale-Cook Elementary quickly saw what happens when it rains in each of the situations.

"This is fun," said Ryan Gilyard, 10. "I learned about flooding and how the city should have been built. We should try to improve the watershed because it affects people."

The Department's education specialists work with the classroom teachers to prepare the kids for the on-site visit. Each curriculum was carefully developed with the students, the teachers and the state of Missouri's educational objectives in mind. With all the preparation, the on-site visit provides lots of fast-paced fun based on the skills the students learned at school.

When the Kids and Cops Adventure Club attended the Nature's Bounty workshop this summer, they studied fisheries management. Along the way, they picked up lots of good fishing tips. In addition, the youngsters, who ranged in age from 10 to 13 years old, figured out how many fish could be stocked in a pond at the center. They also took water temperatures and identified fish in an aquarium. Afterwards, the group learned to make fishing jigs. Each child received a fly tying kit, yellow feathers and black chenille.

"Let's make a bumble bee," suggested Education Specialist Todd Meese.

"I can't do it," protested one child.

"Yes, you can, " assured Todd.

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