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Gross National Happiness…in Nature?

A few years ago, I read about a new idea from the leader of another country. That king decided that his people’s quality of life wasn’t just about economic productivity. So he came up with a new way to view their richness—instead of gross national product he devised a gross national happiness index.

Given today’s challenges, this seems a perfect time to expand our view of what defines us. It’s a great time to look at what creates real wealth of heart and mind.

Family and friends of course enrich us. But nature, wildlife, the outdoors—whatever you like to call it—is another part of the formula for quality of life. And the very best thing is that it’s available for all Missouri citizens to enjoy.

In the past few years, a surge of interest has exploded about ensuring our children have opportunities to connect with nature.

In our state, the Conservation Department has been working to give Missouri’s kids, both urban and rural, a way to enhance their well being through the Discover Nature Schools program. This program provides teacher training and engaging instructional units (specific lesson plans and activities) that meet the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Grade Level Expectations and testing standards. We also have provided grants for related field trips and teaching materials.

The program includes a 6–8th grade unit on the wonders of water—of life in streams, ponds and river; there’s also “Nature Unleashed,” a 3–5th grade unit on habitats. We’re working on a unit for grades K–2 and a high school ecology unit for biology and agriculture.

Conservation education has been part of our agency’s mission from its beginning, so we’re in a perfect position to help our children enjoy forest, fish, and wildlife while also developing an understanding of what it takes to keep it healthy and sustainable.

I’m sure you’re aware of the lack of outdoor play in young children; about the national decline in number of hunters and anglers; the increase in obesity and attention deficit disorder; and on and on. If you’re involved in education, you also know that resources are tight and time is limited.

What can you do? Please help your local schools sign up with the Conservation Department for the Discover Nature Schools program. It gives children an opportunity to explore the outdoors and to learn outside in nature. You can find out more at: www.MissouriConservation.org/15642

Though it’s very lyrical, that bit of Wordsworth poem does capture the sense of wonder you likely found in nature as a child. If you’re lucky, you still have it now and then. Please help instill it in kids today. Help them Discover Nature…and happiness.

Lorna Domke, outreach and education division chief

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