Republic elementary school presents check to MDC's Springfield Nature Center

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REPUBLIC, Mo. – Several students at Republic’s Lyon Elementary School combined their love of the outdoors with their interest in art to create a special gift to the Missouri Department of Conservation’s (MDC) Springfield Conservation Nature Center.

On Thursday, March 3, Kelly Hicks’ Fifth Grade SOAR class presented a check for $170 to the staff of MDC’s Springfield Conservation Nature Center. This gift represented a portion of the proceeds of an auction of artworks produced by students in the Republic School District’s SOAR (Seeking Out Academic Rewards) Program. The service-learning project was participated in by elementary students (grades K-5) in all five of the Republic School District’s elementary schools.

Hicks’ fifth grade class created their art pieces last year as fourth graders. The auction for the art pieces was held in May. Students were allowed to choose the topic of their art piece and the student artists were also allowed to choose where the money of the sale of their pieces would go. Overall, the entire SOAR group (60 students) raised more than $1,300 for five organizations by auctioning 61 paintings and hand-made miniature quilts. The proceeds that went to the Springfield Nature Center were from the sale of six paintings of plant species that are listed as endangered in Missouri that had been researched by the student artists. The endangered plants featured in the students’ paintings were eastern prairie fringed orchid, decurrent false aster, Mead’s milkweed, Virginia sneezeweed, pondberry, and Missouri bladderpod.

“This group of students is passionate about nature, taking care of it, conserving it, and appreciating it,” said Kelly Hicks, the K-5 Gifted Specialist for the Republic School District and the coordinator of this project. “They were very excited to contribute to a local organization that specifically helps educate others about caring for nature and our environment.”

Springfield Nature Center Manager Rudy Martinez said the donated money will be used for educational program supplies that are used by nature center staff and volunteers.

“We use program props that our audiences can see, touch, hear, and smell,” he said. “Therefore, we tend to go through a lot of program props each year that are used to teach people about taking care of our natural resources. This donation will allow us to reach more people.”

Martinez was thrilled, honored, and impressed when he learned that the Nature Center was to be the recipient of this special gift.

“I was excited to learn about how this group of fifth graders played a creative role in fund raising because it demonstrated the students’ sense of community and the value they place on nature,” he said. “The lengthy process these students went through, not only of researching endangered plants, but also of researching community charities, making their paintings, and then auctioning them put these students in a role to make a difference in their community… and they are."