Missouri Environmental Education News: November 2023

Welcome to the lastest edition of MEEA's Newsletter
Lesli Moylan Photo

Table of Contents

  • Feature Article
  • Lesson Resources
  • Annual Conference
  • Featured Events, Grants, Workshops & Webinars
  • JEDIA: Justice, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Accessibility
  • Green Schools Corner
  • Missouri Nature Phenomena This Month
  • News from the Field

Dear MEEA friends,

There are ~440 of you on our newsletter list, and we had about 25% of that number attending the MEEA conference this month – a good portion of our growing Missouri EE community, I’d say! There are some gaps, especially with BIPOC representation, rural representation, and youth representation, but the conference crowd this year was more diverse than ever and indicates that we are making strides. I really felt that during the conference as I observed conversations happening at tables of people that represented every corner of our state. I also loved seeing so many connections being made across regions, racial and gender lines, and generations. 

In my systems-view of our world, I see conversations as the most vital connecting links in our human networks. They are how deep network connections are made, and they are such powerful feedback loops. They are how ideas spread and cross-pollinate. I don’t know where this growing community will go together in the future, but I do know that growing and strengthening statewide EE networks is an incredibly valuable investment of time.  

Let’s build on the momentum from this year’s conference, and keep the conversation going. We’ve got great programming on deck for 2024, and we hope you will engage with us and will invite others to join us. Whether it’s our conference, Show-Me Green Schools, or our expanded professional development offerings, your participation and support strengthens the Missouri EE network. As we continually build a more inclusive and representative EE community in Missouri, the sky’s the limit to what we can achieve together. (Or maybe not? Could EE have a hand in cleaning up all the space junk that’s piling up?!) 

Sincerely, and with great appreciation for all that this community does to care for our planet and future generations.

Lesli Moylan, MEEA Co-Director

Feature Article:

Take A Hike!

Article and lesson ideas submitted by:

Erin Graves

MEEA Board Member & Science Teacher at Herculaneum, MO

November is here! The weather is cooler and the brilliant reds, oranges and yellows of the Fall trees will soon be submitting to the browns and grays of winter.  Hiking is a great activity during the Spring, Summer and early Fall. Yet, late Fall and Winter are just as wonderful times to get outside, spend quality time with your children and energize your body and brain!  November 17 is National Take a Hike Day, and there are so many reasons to get outside and take a short stroll in a city park or a trek through one of Missouri’s many natural areas. 

Here are just some of the reasons to go “Take a Hike”!

  • Hiking is a simple, no to low cost activity for all children and adults of all ages. It requires minimal equipment and it doesn’t matter if you live in an urban or rural area, there are always places to take a walk near your neighborhood.  
  • Hiking is one of the best ways to spend time with your children. My grown children now recall that some of their most treasured memories were times we spent outside exploring the natural surroundings – no cell phones, no computers, no tablets! They now have a lifelong relationship with nature that they share with their own children.
  • Hiking is good exercise!  It helps you and your children stay fit and healthy. It can help develop a child’s balance, problem solving skills and self-confidence. In addition, there is countless scientific evidence that nature has benefits for psychological human well being by increasing cognitive function and positive emotional states.1
  • Hiking exposes children to wildlife. Many parents prefer to take their kids to a zoo instead of a hike, but often it’s way more exciting to see a wild bunny, a deer or a beetle in their natural habitat. There’s nothing like the wonder of nature to peak a child’s curiosity.  This can forage an appreciation and a powerful lifelong connection with the natural environment.2
  • Hiking is a great time to educate children about protecting the natural areas and the environment.  When you see litter along a walk, it’s an opportunity to discuss what could happen to the plants and animals if the trash is left and what can be done with the trash.
  • There are lots of great hiking resources for families of all ages who want to start hiking.  Check out “A Beginner’s Guide to Hiking” at RunWildMyChild.com or “Hiking with Kids” at AmericanHikingSociety.com.

To learn more about places to hike in Missouri, things you can do with children while hiking or to see lesson plans for teachers, homeschoolers and parents, see “Hiking Resources” in MEEA’s Educator Resources.

Happy Hiking!

  1. Nurture by Nature; Kirsten Weir, American Psychological Association, Vol. 51, No.3,  April 1, 2012
  2. Hiking with Kids, American Hiking Society, https://americanhiking.org/resources/hiking-with-kids/ 

Hiking Resources/Places to Hike in Missouri

These sites provide you with information for hundreds trails from urban paths to challenging wooded treks:


Lesson Resources

Hiking Activities

Here are some fun activities to engage children in hiking.  (Helpful Hint: Hiking and these hiking activities are so much more fun when you and your children disconnect from technology!)


  • Let kids play in the dirt or explore under a decaying log, exposure to these types of bacteria help strengthen their immune system.
  • Use your and your children’s imagination to make believe play scenarios with the natural surroundings. (A stick makes a great magic wand!) Let your child lead the way!
  • Take home pebbles or sticks, pine cones or fallen leaves or other (non-living) objects to take home and create a nature art project. Discuss with your child, why you would not collect living things.
  • Set up a scavenger hunt. Make a list of items children can find, for example, a tree with smooth bark or a black ant.  For small children, give them a card with several shapes on it and have them find that shape in nature or give children several different color paint chips and have them find that color during their hike.
  • Have children make a nature journal  (DIY Nature Journal) and draw or write things they see, smell, hear or feel during their walk.
  • Pack a picnic lunch with your child to enjoy when you reach your hiking destination.  This is a great time to talk about “Leave no trace” too!  Challenge your child to search the area before you leave to be sure no living thing was harmed and  nothing was left behind.


Lesson Ideas 

Science, Math, Language Arts, Physical Education, History, Social Sciences, Art……..There is absolutely NO school subject that cannot be incorporated into and enhanced through a walk or hike for any age.  Below are just some ideas, yet the topics are boundless!  

Preschool – Elementary school lessons:

Scavenger hunt ideas –  Give students a list (or a bingo sheet) and have them find:

  • Different shapes
  • Different colors (give each child several different color paint chips to try to match up)
  • A counting (ex: 2 rocks, 3 sticks) and incorporate simple math concepts
  • Introduce students to the concept of using maps. “Pre-hide” small items on the trail for students to find along the trail using a map.
  • Make letters / words / art out of sticks, rocks or fallen leaves
  • Find living things and non living things. Discuss the differences
  • Have children walk barefoot on different surfaces and describe the textures
  • Stop and explore under a decaying log.  Observe and discuss what’s living there.  Introduce the topic of decomposers and the cycle of life (ex: how the tree will turn to soil which can grow new plants)
  • Have students hold a small mirror facing up while they walk and observe what they see
  • Collect fallen leaves while you hike then have children sort them based on different attributes
  • Play nature “I-Spy”

    Middle – High School Lesson:

    Identification, Dichotomous Keys/Taxonomy                                                                                                  

    One of the best things to do on a nature walk is to simply observe what nature has to offer. With an app such as iNaturalist, students can record, catalog and share what they have found. The app also facilitates connection with thousands of scientists to help users identify the species they have observed. With other apps such as Leafsnap or the online tree identification field guide from the Arbor Day Foundation, students can also identify the trees and plant species in their area.  Introduce students to taxonomy and use of dichotomous keys for this activity.

    Annual Conference

    The MEEA Annual Conference was Amazing!

    smileWe are forever grateful for our members, working Board of Directors, Saint Louis Zoo staff and volunteers, and all of the impressive presenters and community members who made this important EE gathering happen.  Thank You! smile






    A Giant Thank YOU to our wonderful host:email us with questions, comments and feedback.

    Inspiring Speakers and Hopeful Themes


    Dr. Marion Pierson, President and co-founder of MO Hives KC, was our inspiring keynote speaker this year.  She and one of her brilliant young staffers, Micah Quinn, also hosted a MO Hives KC table in the Saint Louis Zoo’s fabulous “The Living World” Center rotunda.




    Featured Event:

    Missouri Parks and Recreation Association —

    Region 4 Conference 2023

    Thursday, November 16



    Featured Grant:

    Youth Garden Gran

    Deadline to apply Dec 15, 2023

    Youth Garden Grant

    Workshops & Webinars

    Featured Webinar:

    Connect on the Quest

    December 4 @ 4:30 pm – 5:30 pm

    A monthly virtual speakers series


    JEDIA: Justice, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Accessibility

    Expanding Our Youth Engagement in Environmental Education 


    “Young Environmental Leaders” Launch!

    We at MEEA are thrilled to announce the launch of an exciting and timely membership initiative we are calling Young Environmental Leaders (YEL).

    YEL will be an action-oriented, youth-led group that will represent our mission using the voices and brilliance of our younger citizens.   Our young people (ages 16-24) are the generation that is inheriting perhaps the most critical environmental challenges in our history.  They deserve support and encouragement to not only engage in the natural world but also lead the charge for sharing hope and inspiring action on the regeneration of our precious and fragile planet.

    We view our YEL members as emerging leaders who are passionate about the environment, and concerned in particular with issues like climate change, environmental equity, regenerative agriculture, biodiversity, and green careers.

    We hope to empower the YEL members by:

    • Helping their stories and voices be heard via MEEA’s newsletter, social media, face-to-face events, and policymaker engagement activities;
    • Creating focus groups and leadership roles alongside like-minded emerging leaders, environmental educators, environmental organizations, and policymakers;
    • Offering training, networking, and volunteer opportunities to enhance the future Missouri’s sustainability efforts.

    Young Environmental Leaders Membership is only $25 annually  (Note: We want everyone who wants to learn about and improve their environmental education practice to be part of our network. If cost is a barrier to participation, just select $0 or any other amount you’re able to donate, and join MEEA!)

    If you would like to become a member of YEL, or know someone who you think would be interested, join us by signing up here:  meea.org/get-involved/join-meea

    Be a part of something BIG and so relevant for the future!  Thank you for considering the challenge to become a Young Environmental Leader.

    Green Schools Corner

    Congratulations to our Missouri Green Schools 2023 Honorees!

    These outstanding Missouri educators were honored during the Evening Social in St. Louis (the Friday before the

    MEEA Annual Conference) for their terrific work implementing Green Schools projects.


     Pictured from left to right:  Hope Gribble–Principia School, Jaclyn Jezik Crestwood Elementary School, Emily Andrews–MO Green Building Council, Sarah Holmes–St. Teresa’s Academy, Susan Zareh –Forsyth School, Mary Montaj–St. Teresa’s Academy, Porscha Hayes–SMGS Vista, Lesli Moylan–MEEA Co-Director

    The Show-Me Green Schools suite of programs is co-managed by MEEA and the Missouri Gateway Green Building Council.


    Nature Phenomena This Month

    Photo courtesy of Missouri Department of Conservation. Learn more at https://mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide

    News from the Field

    Calling all School Teachers and Administrators!!

    MEEA wants YOU to be included in Phase 2 of the Environmental Education "PEEPs Landscape Analysis"

    Plains Environmental Education Partnership (PEEPs): Advancing Environmental
    Literacy through Data Driven Strategic Action

    We want to better understand your needs and challenges when it comes to providing environmental education and outdoor learning!


    Purpose: To build capacity for environmental education in the Plains Environmental Education Partnership (PEEPs)
    states through the assessment, analysis, publication of results and action planning using landscape analysis data of
    both environmental education (EE) providers and implementation and barriers in formal PreK-12 schools and districts.

    We're embarking on a journey to understand the various ways in which schools are engaging students in learning from and about the environment, from preschool through high school.

    Through your participation, we aim to gain insights into the landscape of environmental and outdoor learning opportunities in our region, whether it’s indoors or out, from science to language and fine arts. We want to discover what programs and activities are available, where there may be gaps in access, and how schools can work with organizations to enhance environmental and outdoor learning for all students.

    By participating in this survey, you are agreeing to have your information listed as part of a state and regional landscape of environmental and outdoor learning in schools across the Plains and Rocky Mountain Region. Only high level details will be shared.

    Estimated time to complete: 15 minutes  (Note:  This survey is formatted with skip logic, so you will only answer questions relevant to you.)

    This survey is focused only on PreK-12 Schools. If your organization is not a school, but provides environmental and outdoor learning programs, please stay tuned for other opportunities to contribute to this effort.

    **TAKE THE SURVEY: PreK-12 EE providers survey for PEEPs

    email us with questions, comments and feedback.