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Missouri Environmental Education News
March 2020

Table of Contents: Article: Connecting Youth to their Local Ecosystes: Mammal Investigations, Lesson Resources, Things to Look Out for This Month, Kudos, MEEA News, Grants, Contests and Awards, Conferences, Workshops, Jobs

Dear MEEA Members,

It has been a whirlwind 6 weeks since the last newsletter—electing board members, presenting and tabling at the DESE Interface Conference, attending the Green Schools Conference in Portland, OR, submitting our Americorps VISTA application, and viewing amazing documentaries at the True/False Film Festival in beautiful Columbia, MO. I keep thinking about a conversation I had with a friend at True/False about the kids who get most of their meals at school. If their schools close due to the coronavirus, they will be in real trouble. And we have a lot of Missouri children in that boat. I know that many people are working hard right now to put virus response systems in place for vulnerable members of our society. I don’t know any specifics about the plans for emergency food assistance to school children on the Free and Reduced Lunch Plan program. If any of you have info to share on that, I’d love to share it through the MEEA network. I’m hopeful that we can all use our networks to create a collective, compassionate, creative response as coronavirus moves through our state.

Six weeks ago there wasn’t much talk of the coronavirus and we were just electing new board members. We are just getting the new folks onboarded now, and will have our first board meeting together at the end of the month. With this election, we double the number of at-large board members for a full board of 11 members. This is great, because we are growing. From tabling at the Litzinger Road Ecology Center’s conference and going to Interface, our membership grew 10% in just the last couple months. We now have 665 MEEA members in our network! The Board Member bios will go up on the website in April, but in the meantime, here is the 2020-2021 roster. What a great group from all over our big, beautiful state! Thank you, MEEA Board, for all you do to help us support environmental and sustainability education.

And thank you to Emily Connor from Audubon Riverlands, who submitted this month’s article and lesson resources. Riverlands was a recipient of the MEEA mini-grant award in 2018, and Emily shares a little about the program that the funds supported. I’m so happy MEEA was able to help these innovative educators get their Mammal Investigations program up and running! If you’re interested in applying for a MEEA mini-grant, check out our grants page at meea.org/grants. We have a budget for six $250 grants this year.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy this month’s newsletter!

Lesli Moylan, Executive Director

Connecting Youth to their Local Ecosystems: Mammal Investigations

by Emily Connor
Environmental Educator, Audubon Center at Riverlands

Mammal Investigations "Crime Scene". Students determine what has happened in different scenes using clues like tracks.

The St. Louis region is a special place to grow up as a kid. This region has a wide diversity of habitats, each one unique. Located along the Mississippi River, many animals find their homes here. Mammals are widely distributed throughout the region and some have adapted to thrive in rural areas and urban settings. Whether you live in STL City, North County, or way out in the western suburbs, you have probably had experiences with some of Missouri’s mammals. Because mammals or evidence of them in our region is readily available, students can use this group of animals as a conduit to connect with nature every single day.

In 2018, the Audubon Center at Riverlands received an education grant from Missouri Environmental Education Association (MEEA) that allowed for the creation of a new program, Mammal Investigations. This program has allowed Audubon’s education staff to encourage youth in the STL region to develop a better understanding of the natural world through connections to their region and their own backyards. Using bio facts like mammal scat, skulls, tracks and pelts, students might discover what a red fox feels like for the very first time. Through this program, students also discover that animals leave evidence of where they have been or what they are doing in nature. Students can then use that information to interpret the interactions animals have in their natural environments and then apply it in their own backyard or a local park.

RiverVision students view various mammal skulls and observe differences in their teeth.
With this grant, this new curriculum also further engages students in education programs including the RiverVision Leadership Project, which is targeted specifically to serve under-resourced, minority schools. Additionally, this program has been utilized in Flight Crew, an Audubon summer job corps offered to teens in North County. Flight Crew members studied then facilitated Mammal Investigations to 3rd through 5th grade students at Little Creek Summer Camp. Through these opportunities, this program has not only reached under-resourced communities and communities of color, but is also being taught by members of that community to the next generation. This unique peer-to-peer teaching opportunity with Flight Crew members at Little Creek Summer Camp can begin to help break down comfort barriers that many may have with nature, and offers exposure to many different careers.

Flight Crew Member, Jamiah Cole, teaches Little Creek Summer Camp Campers about mammal tracks.
This new curriculum has helped the education staff at the Audubon Center accomplish their goal of encouraging students who are underrepresented in environmental fields to utilize natural resources found in their own communities to explore careers within conservation and wildlife biology. These experiences will help students make personal connections to the environment and inspire exploration of the natural world.

Mammal Investigation Resources

  • https://www.cornell.edu/video/naturalist-outreach-skull-detectives-mammal-skulls
  • https://mdc.mo.gov/conmag/2016/01/animal-detective
  • https://nature.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/general-species-information/mammal-facts/mammal-tracks
  • Supplies: https://www.acornnaturalists.com/products/tracking-resources/track-scat-replicas.html
  • Things to Look for (or Look Out for) in March!

    (check out all the green holidays)

    What to Look for Right Now - MDC's list of What's Out There in March!

    Kudos

    Kudos to the St. Louis Puppet Theater Guild for putting on a wonderful earth-loving puppet show about "The Secret of Soil" to a packed house at the Kingshighway Branch Library on Feb. 29. And kudos to the St. Louis Regional Arts Commission for awarding a grant to the St. Louis Puppet Theater Guild so they could develop this show!

    Kudos to the US Green Building Council. As of 2019, their hard work over the years has resulted in 217 million square feet of LEED certified schools!

    Kudos to MU's College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, School of Natural Resources, Mizzou Botanic Garden, and Grow Native! for sponsoring a screening and panel discussion of "Hometown Habitat", stories of communities committing to conservation landscaping to create wildlife habitat. Panelists represented MEEA, MDC, Missouri Prairie Foundation, Missouri Farm Bureau, MU Extension, Roeslein Alternative Energy, and CAFNR students. Thanks to all for spreading the word about how we can all do our part to be caretakers of the natural world!

    MEEA News

    Coming Up in the Next Two Months

    (These count for Environmental Educator Certification categories 1, 2 or 3. Visit the EE Certification page here)

    EE Jobs details here

     

    Photo Credit: Audubon Center at Riverlands