MDC educators train 154 St. Louis teachers in new preschool unit of science curriculum
St. LOUIS, Mo.—Children are never too young to learn about nature and gain an appreciation of the outdoor world. Tomorrow’s conservationists are being forged in the schools of today. That, and learning by doing, are two of the guiding principles behind the Missouri Department of Conservation’s (MDC) Discover Nature Schools (DNS) program.
MDC has worked with teachers and conservation educators to create DNS, a statewide conservation science education curriculum designed around Missouri Learning Standards. DNS emphasizes hands-on learning, teaches problem-solving, and provides authentic and local contexts for learning. DNS is designed to educate students from pre-K through high school about Missouri’s native plants, animals, and habitats and in the process, connect them with nature where they live. It features a progressive set of units customized and age-appropriate for each grade level. DNS even provides grant funding to help cover equipment costs and field trips.
MDC educators conducted a teacher training session for St. Louis City Public School teachers Aug. 11-12 at Vashon High School in the City of St. Louis. 154 teachers attended the workshop as professional development and were certified in the Nature Revealed unit—the earliest unit, created for pre-kindergarten students. MDC Conservation Educators Dennis Cooke, Scott Sarantakis, Nicki Wheaton, David Bruns, and Naturalist Rebecca Rodriguez conducted the training.
“Each teacher attended one of the two days, and they rotated through four separate stations,” said Cooke. Cooke explained that the stations ranged from familiarizing the participants with the DNS unit’s Teacher Guide, to using cutouts in the back of unit book called “manipulatives” that adhere to felt boards or magnetic surfaces to help convey the stories in the lesson plans. The training included outdoor experiences which took teachers into the courtyard and showed how the unit’s practical activities can be done on school grounds.
Dr. Samantha March, Interim Director of Early Education for St. Louis City Public Schools, also attended the training. “There was a full staff that facilitated each breakout session. The MDC staff really catered to the group and provided individual experiences. They were fantastic to work with and put on an incredible workshop,” said Dr. March.
Of the Nature Revealed DNS unit itself, Dr. March observed “It’s a well-planned, well thought-out, and thorough curriculum that’s hands-on and provides excellent leaning experiences for young students. It also gives teachers the resources they need to increase student achievement in the sciences.”
MDC offers many services to support Missouri teachers through its online Teacher Portal at mdc.mo.gov/education. These include all DNS curricula, information on field trip opportunities, education grants, and other teacher workshops.
“It always surprises me that teachers are unaware of our teacher portal and all the training and curricula that can be found there,” said Cooke. “We want to open their eyes to this great resource.”