Managing and sustaining our forest, fish, and wildlife resources is a complex process that requires a multiyear commitment, continuous evaluation, and citizen participation. However, one of the most simple and effective ways to address many conservation challenges is to help our state’s children discover nature.
When getting outside and discovering nature becomes an integral part of our lives, we become invested in taking care of it. It’s personal. This legacy of conservation often starts in childhood when we are eager to explore and learn new things. Whether through hiking, hunting, fishing, or watching wildlife, it’s the connection to our natural world that matters. When parents, grandparents, siblings, and other mentors encourage children to spend more time in nature, they help shape the conservationists of the future. Read A Tale of Two Mentors to see how beneficial and fun mentorship can be.
The Conservation Department also continues to invest in helping kids discover nature through our strong outreach and education efforts in the schools. Discover Nature Schools is a school-based curriculum designed for pre-kindergarten through high school, which provides teacher training, instructional units, and funding for equipment and outdoor field experiences. This curriculum allows kids in Missouri to learn about nature in their own backyard with no extra expense to the school. Discover Nature Schools is currently in 80 percent of school districts across the state, with a goal to be in 100 percent by 2016.
Classroom education isn’t the only school outreach. The Department also facilitates the Missouri National Archery in the Schools Program. This program’s mission is to teach kids the basics of archery as part of their school day and to build stronger, more confident and accomplished kids. It’s working wonders. Statistics show that kids in school archery programs improve their school attendance, increase self-esteem, and increase outdoor physical activity. Missouri is now one of the top 10 states in the nation for the highest participation in school archery programs.
The Department also makes it a priority to offer activities for kids and families to learn new outdoor skills together. Our Discover Nature — Fishing program partners our trained staff and volunteers with kids and families to teach them the basic of fishing, fast-tracking them to the joy of their first catch. Discover Nature — Girls Camp, hosted by conservation agents and held at various locations in the summer, teaches hundreds of young girls each year about canoeing, archery, shooting, fishing, outdoor cooking, and other valuable outdoor skills. The Department partners with 4H and FFA camps to provide additional opportunities in shooting sports. All of these programs are free and part of the Department’s ongoing mission to help everyone, especially kids, discover nature.
Recruiting conservationists for the future is one of our biggest jobs right now. It is a worthy investment. Just as we are investing, we hope you will, too. Take kids with you when you explore a new trail or find a great fishing hole. Listen closely about the best school field trip ever. Sign them up for our free kids’ magazine, Xplor, where lots of adventures in nature are waiting. The future of conservation begins with our kids, and, hopefully, just keeps growing from there.
Robert L. Ziehmer, director
Editor In Chief - Nichole LeClair Terrill
Managing Editor - vacant
Art Director - Cliff White
Staff Writer/Editor - Brett Dufur
Staff Writer - Jim Low
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Designer - Stephanie Thurber
Circulation - Laura Scheuler