Outdoor Inquiry

     This summer has become one of travel. The Purple Martin banding project has us zig-zaging across the state. One day we are in Platte City (North of KC) and the next we are in St. Louis. We have also been banding south of Rolla. In between these events we participated in a Bioblitz (a survey of flora and fauna) at Bray Conservation Area with the Meramec Hills Master Naturalists and attended an “Outdoor Inquiry” Workshop at Prairie Fork Conservation Area.
     Prairie Fork is a superb venue for outdoor education. The area was donated to the MDC by Hilda “Pat” Jones for purposes of education, restoration, management and research. This is truly a place where kids can “Explore, experience, get dirty, and learn!”
     The two-day educator workshop centered upon the concept of inquiry and encompassed related field experiences in different habitats with the flora and fauna found there. We discussed and learned about steps for teaching students how to make their own inquiry and assessments.
     We ventured into the field to practice constructing quadrats to collect data, dabbled in some forestry, examined the prairie community, and of course learned about birds and bird monitoring! We set up a few nets for the educators to experience for themselves what their students will have the opportunity to enjoy. The birds (Downy Woodpecker, Yellow-breasted Chat, Louisiana Waterthrush, and White-breasted Nuthatch) cooperated by allowing themselves to be captured. Educators were shown how we explain the science of what we do and the context of banding to groups.
     Stellar MDC Education and Outreach Staff, Carol Mahan and Betsy Blake, led the workshop. Cynthia Green was also in attendance and will be hosting upcoming workshops with MRBO participating in the coming months.
     We were also fortunate to have met once again with Amber Edwards, Prairie Fork Outreach and Education Coordinator. When first we met at the Conservation Federation of Missouri Conference this year, we knew she was top-notch. It was a pleasure seeing her in action hosting MDC educators, teachers, and MRBO last week. She is a superb field person and her current role seems to suit her nicely.

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