COLUMBIA, Mo. — Christmas came in August for three Columbia high school outdoor education teachers. The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) and the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation awarded the three teachers new outdoor skills equipment valued at over $10,000 for their use in each of their respective outdoor education programs. The three high schools that received the donations are Battle, Hickman and Rock Bridge.
Each teacher received a basic outdoor equipment kit that included fishing rods and reels, fly-fishing rods and reels, bait casting rods and reels, instructional fishing tackle, a fishing net, bowfishing gear, tents, sleeping bags, sleeping mats, backpacks, hunting blinds, hunting decoys, binoculars, compasses, a water purifier, and 3-D archery decoys.
According to MDC Outdoor Skills Specialist Brian Flowers, the equipment will help support the teaching efforts and hopefully enhance the outdoor education curriculum that the high schools are offering.
"We are happy to partner with Columbia Public Schools to help these students discover nature with hands-on experiences," Flowers said. "These teachers are filling a need by introducing these teenagers to various outdoor recreational opportunities, and hopefully help the next generation of hunters, anglers and outdoor enthusiasts become life-long conservationists."
Jeff Bazat, Rock Bridge High School outdoor education teacher, said this equipment will help provide more hands-on opportunities for his students and take the kids in his class to the next level of learning.
"This equipment is definitely going to enhance the kids getting outdoors more," Bazat said. "We won't have to sit in a class room and talk, the kids will be able to get outside and interact with the equipment, actually get to put into practice what we are learning about."
The outdoor education class is relatively new in each of the Columbia high schools. This is the second year that each school will be offering the course as a physical education requirement.
According to Battle High School Outdoor Education Teacher John Mize, it was the students who wanted this type of class.
"The kids identified this need in a questionnaire that we conduct each year. They like the outdoors and wanted more opportunities to experience outdoor activities," Mize said. "Those kids that don't want to take team sports, they don't want to take strength training, they wanted to take an outdoor education class."
Bazat agreed. "We wanted to get more diverse around our physical education program and offer something different for the kids."
At Battle High School, Mize often finds himself in a class with novices when it comes to outdoor experiences. He enjoys passing on the skills he grew up with onto the next generation.
"I've always enjoyed the outdoors: hunting, fishing, camping—the major units of instruction—and taking that knowledge and passing it on to the students is awesome," Mize said. "Last semester, I had some female students who caught their first fish in my class and their faces just lit up with joy. It's very rewarding."
And the students at all three high schools seem to be catching on to the new course being offered.
According to Mason Mershon, Hickman High School outdoor education teacher, his class is bigger this year than last fall.
"The word is definitely getting out in the school," Mershon said. "You can hear kids talking about the class more."
To learn more about MDC's Discover Nature Schools program, visit mdc.mo.gov.