CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. – Naturalists from the Missouri Department of Conservation's (MDC) Cape Girardeau Conservation Nature Center provided “Vertebrates of Missouri” programs to more than 1,000 third through fifth grade students from eight schools across five counties in just four days according to Nature Center Manager Sara Turner.
“Our staff visited a large number of students and brought them high quality programs in individual classrooms,” Turner said. “I’m so proud of the naturalists for giving the extra time, enthusiasm, and positive attitudes to these outreach programs.”
Students learned about pelts, gills, feathers and more from MDC employees whose mission was to help students discover nature, so they’ll be conservationists for life.
“We find that if we help students discover nature in their own communities while they’re young, they grow to be good stewards of conservation over time,” said Turner. She said when the staff take programs to schools the days are long and fast paced.
“These days require a positive, can-do attitude and high energy level all day,” Turner said.
Turner said the Conservation Department realizes that, especially in the current state of the economy, many people in the outlying areas of southeast Missouri can’t afford to drive the hour or more to experience the nature center in Cape Girardeau. These visits are one way the MDC works to enrich quality of life throughout Missouri and help people to discover nature.
“This way the naturalists go right to the schools to inspire students to discover nature where they already are,” Turner said.
The nature programs engage students to explore the unique characteristics of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians that inhabit southeast Missouri. Mounts, pelts, and live animals are used to illustrate the special adaptations of each vertebrate group and help the students determine how each type of vertebrate plays a role in the food chain.
After students understood why they should care about wildlife habitat, they discussed actions they can accomplish themselves – like picking up trash, planting trees and native plant species, letting wild animals be wild, and recycling.
MDC naturalists visited the following schools on these dates:
For more information on nature programs at the Cape Girardeau Conservation Nature Center, go online to mdc.mo.gov