WILD, Unleashed, Unbound!

By Alie Mayes, Education Intern
Last week, Ny and I had the wonderful opportunity to travel to St. Louis to participate in the MDC’s Conservation Workshop for Teachers. This five day conferences covered an array of environmental education program materials and thanks to a grant from the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation, all materials and conference fees for participants were covered. 
On Monday we met at Busch Conservation Area in St. Charles, MO.  We spent the day learning about the MDC Discover Nature Schools. We did a fun activity with science note-booking (a theme which was carried throughout the week) and then broke into small groups for the targeted DNS training. I participated in the Nature Unleashed for grades 3-5 while Ny chose the Nature Unbound for high school students. I was impressed by the DNS program, and am glad that it is an option for Missouri schools.  BUT, the highlight of the day was defiantly Nancy’s woodcock dance!
Alie and her frog friend at Busch Conservation Area.
Tuesday was probably my favorite day of the conference because we covered Project WILD. We met at Powder Valley Conservation Center and spent the day doing example projects from the program and going over how to use the program materials. And not to be outdone by Nancy’s wonderful woodcock dance, David Burns played and sang a little ditty about deer.  It was a great day of Micro Trekking, dissecting owl pellets, and crafting fish.
Wednesday we found ourselves at the Columbia Bottom Conservation Area in St. Louis for the Project WET portion. We did example projects such as “Water Olympics”, “Macro invertebrate Mayhem “, and “Just Passing Through”. We also took a mini field trip down to the Confluence to learn more about the history of the area and go on a short river edge hike.
Thursday we met at Rockwoods Reservation in Wildwood, MO for a fun filled day of Project Learning Tree.  We did projects that focused on taking a second and closer look at trees, leaves, and “Birds and Worms”, which is a project that looks at camouflage and selection.  This was a great example project to show how easy it is to modify these programs to cover a variety of topic. We also went over how to use PLT with DNS.
We ended the week with a much anticipated float trip down the Meramec River.  The float was seven miles of exploration and fun.  There were plenty of stops along the way to take time to swim, talk, and explore. At one stop we did Stream Team activities and looked at the macro invertebrates in the river. At lunch, Ny and I found the BEST swimming hole with a rock platform you could dive off of! The float trip ended with a fish fry hosted by MDC and a presentation of certificates.
This conference was very informative and well done. It was the first conference that the MDC  had hosted that covered such large amount of materials, and I thought they did a FANTASTIC job. A special thanks to Liz Lyons, David Burns, Kevin McCarthy, Nancy Snider, and everyone else who helped. Also, Kevin took about a bazillion pictures during the week, which will be available at  http://www.buschrockwoods.smugmug.com/

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