Conservation Education

By Maddie Fennewald | July 1, 2024
From Missouri Conservationist: July 2024
Discover Nature Schools Trip
Conservation Education

An ecological oasis filled with native plants and insects offsets the chaos of an elementary school playground. While the noise of children playing works to drown out the quiet hum of insects traveling between plants, the insects continue their work dutifully pollinating the plants. This beautiful pollinator plot has brought nature back to the schoolgrounds, and through implementing a pollinator plot, the school has reduced its mowing area. Students can observe the life cycles of the living organisms that call this pollinator plot a home, and the tie between these students and nature grows stronger each time they interact with the area.

“MDC prioritizes educating the public about nature and conservation, but we have to meet people where they are, and that includes the schoolyard,” said Shawn Gruber, education chief. “Education is vital to ensuring people are comfortable and safe when recreating outdoors, so we offer various forms of educational programs for students to encourage childhood exploration and learning.”

Teacher Portal

As the school year draws near, teachers and students alike are preparing themselves for the coming months. MDC’s Teacher Portal serves as a one-stop shop for teachers looking to introduce conservation-related content to their classrooms. This portal provides information covering the free workshops being offered by MDC for teachers, different classroom materials that can be provided to teachers at no cost, educational grants designed to promote class exploration of Missouri’s natural ecosystems, and the various curriculums offered by MDC for Missouri teachers. Teachers who access this portal, which can be found at, will also be guided through the school programs being offered around the state.

Discover Nature Schools

While it’s important for students to experience hands-on nature opportunities, classroom learning is just as vital to teaching an understanding of and appreciation for conservation. The Discover Nature Schools (DNS) program is a no-cost program that emphasizes hands-on learning, teaches problem solving, and provides authentic and local contexts for learning. DNS teaches students from pre-K through high school about Missouri’s native plants, animals, and habitats and connects them with nature. Missouri schools using the DNS curriculum are provided student books, teacher guides, and training workshops at no charge.

The students involved with DNS curriculum are not the only ones that benefit — teachers who use this curriculum often find themselves more immersed in local nature as well.

“I love how we can teach students about the local outdoors, and I love that the Missouri state (education) standards are covered,” said Regina Baepler, a first-grade teacher from the Prairie Home R-V School District.

DNS curriculum is tailored to specific grade levels, and all DNS curriculum units meet the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Missouri Learning Standards.

“This is an excellent program,” said Baepler.

For more information on Discover Nature Schools, visit

Discover Nature — Fishing

Aside from DNS curriculum, MDC also offers Discover Nature — Fishing (DNF), which works to connect students to aquatic education and conservation through hands-on learning. This program helps students gain the skills and confidence to go fishing on their own while they learn about aquatic ecology, fish habitat, and fish identification. Students also get to practice the process of baiting a hook, casting, and proper fish handling techniques. DNF is designed for students in grades 3–12.

Educators can receive training on the DNF program from local MDC staff in just a few short hours. Completion of a DNF training workshop allows educators to get access to equipment and transportation grants to help mitigate the costs associated with implementing a program like DNF. MDC offers free teacher kits, and these teacher kits contain the necessary supplies for teaching the DNF curriculum including a classroom set of fishing poles, bobbers, hooks, and sinkers. For educators looking to take their students off school property to fish, a transportation grant may be available to help with the bus transportation cost.

Older students who have a passion for fishing are encouraged to research MDC’s High School Fishing Club Grant Program. This program is designed to educate and recruit new anglers to help conserve and restore Missouri’s aquatic natural resources. This grant is available to high school fishing clubs that are officially recognized by their school district. Up to $500 per grant is available annually for fishing clubs that participate in activities including, but not limited to, facilitating activities in which club members are teaching and mentoring youth on angling and aquatic education, assisting with MDC fishing events such as kid’s fishing clinics and free fishing days, working on fish habitat improvement projects, and more.

To learn more about Discover Nature — Fishing, visit

Hunter Education

Missouri has a rich history of promoting hunting and firearm safety, and as traditional hunters decrease in number, educating new hunters is pivotal to keeping the tradition alive in the Show-Me State. MDC’s hunter education program teaches students the ethics behind hunting, firearms operation and firearm safety, wildlife identification, game care, survival, hunting techniques, rules, information unique to Missouri, and much more. Missouri’s hunter education course is required for any hunter ages 16 and older born on or after Jan. 1, 1967, and there are two options for those looking to complete their certification.

The first option is a two-step process for those ages 11 and older. In this case, the course is divided into two sections — the knowledge portion and the skills portion. The knowledge portion can be completed online for a fee, a self-study guide can be ordered, free of charge, and delivered for the participant to complete, or participants can attend a classroom session for free. For the skills session and final exam, participants who choose this avenue must register for an in-person skills session and pass the final exam. The second option covers the same material, but it is completed virtually. This option is only available to participants ages 16 and older.

Hunter education has reduced hunting accidents and deaths by more than 70 percent since it became mandatory in 1987. For this reason, all hunters in Missouri are required to become hunter-education certified.

Visit for more information on hunter education.


In Missouri, thousands of students learned the basics of archery as a part of their school curriculum during the 2022–2023 school year as part of the Missouri National Archery in the Schools Program (MoNASP). Over 530 Missouri schools are actively participating in MoNASP, while the National Archery in Schools Program (NASP) has served millions of students nationwide since its founding in 2002.

Archery is an inclusive activity as nearly everyone, regardless of age, size, or physical ability, can excel at archery.

MoNASP State Coordinator Rob Garver has been involved with the program for about 14 years. Through his involvement, Garver has assisted with both local tournaments and the MoNASP state tournament and has trained teachers on how to implement MoNASP into their classrooms.

“The National Archery in the Schools Program is an in-school program aimed at improving educational performance among students in grades 4–12,” Garver said. “Through it, students are learning focus, self-control, discipline, patience, and lessons required to be successful in the classroom and in life.”

Educators who are interested in MoNASP will be delighted to learn that program costs can be mitigated through grants that aim to help educators purchase and maintain their MoNASP gear. The grant is provided by the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation, Conservation Federation of Missouri, NASP, and MDC to provide up to $3,000 worth of equipment for new schools, and up to $700 for existing schools five years after implementation. To qualify for this rebate, teachers must attend the free Basic Archery Instructor training, offered by MoNASP all over the state.

For more information on MoNASP, visit

Outdoor Skills

Many Missourians recognize that hunting and fishing are two major types of outdoor skills, but what people do not realize is that outdoor skills also include outdoor cooking, outdoor survival, and trapping, among other things.

Outdoor cooking can be done in a suburban environment or in the middle of nowhere — all you need are the right ingredients and cooking instruments. As for outdoor survival, outdoor enthusiasts use the skills of orienteering and map reading to ensure their safety when they venture outdoors. Trapping in Missouri has a rich history, and the hobby can be used for population management of smaller game such as furbearers, and trappers can also harvest meat for consumption from the activity.

MDC educators around the state host free events centered around each of these outdoor skills, and these events are designed for groups of all ages. To find an outdoor skills event near you, go to and click the Events tab in the upper right-hand corner.

To find your local conservation educator contact, go to and click the Contact & Engage tab on the top right corner of the page. From there, click the Local Contacts link and search for your county to find your local MDC office.

Also In This Issue

This Issue's Staff

Magazine Manager - Stephanie Thurber
Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld
Associate Editor - Larry Archer
Photography Editor - Cliff White
Staff Writer - Kristie Hilgedick
Staff Writer - Joe Jerek
Staff Writer – Dianne Van Dien
Designer – Amanda DeGraffenreid
Designer – Marci Porter
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Circulation – Marcia Hale