MDC honors Columbia Public Schools science coordinator

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COLUMBIA, Mo. — The future of conservation success in Missouri is dependent upon widespread, citizen support and effective partnerships. In recognition of outstanding performance by an outside partner, the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) presents an annual state Outreach and Education (O&E) Partnership Award.

Mike Szydlowski, Science Coordinator for Columbia Public Schools (CPS), was awarded the 2013 MDC O&E Partnership Award.

“MDC recognizes and appreciates our partners for their involvement and collaboration to further conservation education, natural resource interpretation, and outreach program efforts,” said MDC O&E Division Chief Mike Huffman. “The statewide O&E Partnership Award is the highest honor we can bestow on these partners and we congratulate Mike’s leadership.”

The O&E Partnership Award goes to an individual or group outside of the Department that shows exemplary or continuous service working with O& Estaff, defines excellent conservation service, and recognizes the significance of partnerships in accomplishing common goals.

“Mike’s dedication and passion for science and conservation education makes him a noteworthy conservation partner,” said MDC O&E Regional Supervisor Shawn Gruber. “Mike consistently goes the extra mile to facilitate engaging hands-on, nature-based experiences for his students.”

In 2013, Mike and his fellow teachers collaborated with MDC to help 6,000 Columbia students discover nature through the MDC Discover Nature Schools program. This partnership also enabled 2,000 students from Columbia to travel to Prairie Fork Conservation Area (CA) where students have the opportunity to experience nature and conduct nature-based experiments.

Additionally, each fall Mike coordinates with the MDC, Columbia Audubon Society, Raptor Rehab, Missouri River Bird Observatory, and the Song Bird station to get more than 1,200 Columbia second graders in nature. During this field trip, students have the opportunity to observe bird research techniques such as mist netting and bird banding. Students also have the opportunity to study quail habitat needs and see live raptors up close and personal.

Mike also coordinates several trips to the Lake of the Ozarks where students learn about conserving Missouri’s aquatic ecosystems.

MDC would like to thank Mike, all the teachers involved in the Discover Nature Schools program, and Columbia Public School administration for their overwhelming support for progressive conservation education.

To learn more about MDC’s Discover Nature Schools program visit