Other Department facilities that offer opportunities to learn about and enjoy Missouri’s diverse outdoors include August A. Busch Memorial Conservation Area near St. Charles, Kirksville Regional Office in Adair County, and Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery Conservation Center Branson. Many other regional offices, conservation areas and hatcheries also offer exhibits. Find a nature center near you by visiting mdc.mo.gov/node/4439.
Discover Nature Schools
Children are the key to Missouri’s conservation future. By working closely with the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, MDC has developed free, widely adopted curriculum materials for grades kindergarten through 12, called Discover Nature Schools (DNS).
“Discover Nature Schools is a science and conservation education program at its best,” says Kevin Lohraff, the Department’s education programs and curriculum supervisor. “DNS is packed with exciting and engaging hands-on activities designed to bring students in grades K–12 outdoors and closer to nature.”
“DNS builds on kids’ natural inquisitiveness, giving them opportunities to get outdoors and closely observe the world around them,” Lohraff says. “Students learn to ask questions, form hypotheses, come up with ways to find answers, collect data, and find out if their hypotheses are right—all while recording observations, sketches and reflections in their science notebooks. Kids learn science by becoming scientists, and they learn about nature while being in nature. This is the best way to learn—to learn by discovery.”
With DNS, students learn about Missouri plants, animals, their habitats, and how they all fit together. In becoming familiar with the outdoors just outside their classroom, students learn to value natural resources close to home.
DNS lessons are closely aligned with state education standards in science and biology. Activities involving recording, communicating and presenting new information integrate with math and language-arts class work. The program began in 2006. By 2012, more than 78,000 Missouri children were connected with nature through various DNS instructional units and grants.
There are four units for various school-age groups. Nature Unfolds was developed for kindergarten through second grade. Nature Unleashed—The Untamed World of Missouri Ponds, Forests and Prairies is for grades 3–5. Middle school students (grades 6–8) work with Conserving Missouri’s Aquatic Ecosystems. Nature Unbound—The Impact of Ecology on Missouri and the World was developed for high school students.
Funding for Conserving Missouri’s Aquatic Ecosystems