MDC awards St. Louis-area educators for helping advance its Discover Nature Schools program

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SPANISH LAKE, Mo.—The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) recently presented its annual Outreach and Education Division’s External Partnership Award to four education professionals who helped advance MDC’s Discover Nature Schools (DNS) program into the future. 

The St. Louis-area educators were recognized during an award presentation at Columbia Bottom Conservation Area in Spanish Lake April 20.  The recipients were Melinda Troxel, Fort Zumwalt School District; Susan Raney, St. Louis Public Schools; Meghan Aydelott, Wentzville School District; and Joe Bartin, Kirkwood School District.

DNS is a set of educational units featuring age appropriate science content for preschool through high school classes.   It offers complete curricula materials to teachers, including teacher guides along with full color student guides and science notebooks.  All units are free to participating schools, and DNS grants pay for classroom materials used in the units.

DNS materials were aligned originally with Missouri’s Grade Level Expectations (GLEs).  However, in 2016 the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education formally adopted the new Missouri Learning Standards (MLS) for Missouri public schools and replaced the GLEs.  MDC’s Outreach and Education Division realized it would be critical to create documents to show how lessons from the DNS units could be applied to the new standards.

A team comprised of the MDC St. Louis Regional Education Consultants set about researching and creating these documents.  They decided that to produce documents with the highest integrity to the new standards, they would need to recruit assistance from school administrators who had already worked with the new standards in their districts. 

The four award recipients answered MDC’s call for assistance and formed a team of curriculum coordinators.

Over the course of several months, these curriculum coordinators dedicated time to meeting with the MDC education consultants to provide expertise and insight to identify specific MLS standards and expectations that were supported by DNS.  The update resulting from their contributions ensures DNS will continue to be useful for both teachers and students for years to come. 

“The exemplary collaborative spirit, time commitment, support of conservation education and the Discover Nature Schools program demonstrated by these curriculum coordinators has resulted in the broad on-going impact for schools across Missouri,” said ­­­­­­­­ Steven Juhlin, MDC State Education Program Coordinator.

For more information of MDC’s Discover Nature Schools program, go to