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Published on: Jul. 21, 2010

Excited Student Fishing

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Students at Hartell Lakes CA

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Students at Nature Unleashed

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Students at Cuivre River State Park

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What has come over Missouri students? They’re asking teachers to do science. They’re begging teachers to take them outside so they can take air temperature, watch birds and record observations. They want their parents to see their science books. They want to take their science notebooks home to record what they see in their own backyards. They’re acting like scientists—without being told! What’s happening?

It’s simple—nearly 400 middle and elementary school teachers have adopted the Discover Nature Schools instructional units in their science classes, and the program is proving to be science and conservation education at its best. Bottom line: the more students equate the outdoors with learning, the more comfortable they become with outdoor environments and with recording outdoor experiences. With their hands directly on the natural world, kids begin to think, ask questions, record data and draw conclusions—just like scientists.

Getting Started

Teachers, to launch a Discover Nature Schools program in your class contact your local education consultant. He or she can introduce you to the units, register you for training and help you get started.

Instructional Units

  • Conserving Missouri's Aquatic Ecosystems (grades 6 - 8)
  • Nature Unleashed - The Untamed World of Missouri Ponds, Forests and Prairies (grades 3 - 5)
  • Nature Unbound (grades 9 - 12) in pilot fall 2010
  • Instructional unit for K - 2 coming soon!

Contact information and complete units and grant guidelines are available on the MDC website at Or, call 573-751-4115 for more information.

Educator Supported

Teachers love the program, too. Discover Nature Schools units slip in easily rather than add to what teachers must cover in a year. The activities keep their students engaged and excited from beginning to end. The concepts are aligned closely with the requirements for state standards, grade-level (and course-level) expectations and testing. Grants provide funding for classroom materials and reimbursement for bus transportation to field experiences where students can apply what they’ve learned.

One teacher said she learned as much as the students and that the fourth-grade unit was the beginning of naturalist learning for them. “They loved using the science tools: thermometers, magnifiers, binoculars, field guides and science notebooks. They wanted to learn more.” Another described how it instilled a sense of stewardship in the students—they began picking up trash each time they went outside.

Outdoor exploration, self-discovery and learning about nature while experiencing it are at the heart of the Discover Nature Schools units. Over 20,000 Missouri students have already been involved. The

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