MEXICO, Mo. — Can your students tell the difference between poison ivy and a harmless plant?
Missouri Department of Conservation officials invite preschool teachers and early childhood educators interested in improving conservation education in their classrooms and home-schools to attend an upcoming free training class near Mexico.
This Discover Nature Schools workshop will focus on the "Nature Revealed" curriculum designed for early childhood educators. The course will take place 1-4 p.m. March 31 at the Scattering Fork Outdoor Center, 15640 Audrain Road 815. The center is southeast of Mexico and eight miles northeast of Auxvasse.
"MDC's Nature Revealed workshop is a wonderful way for preschool teachers, home daycare providers, and homeschool parents to obtain an engaging curriculum to stimulate student curiosity with seasonal activities," MDC Conservation Education Consultant Kathi Moore said. "The activities are designed to take advantage of local outdoor resources, so students are studying and observing species found in their backyards."
Scattering Fork gets its name from the creek that runs through it, according to its owner, Laura Worstell.
"The creek starts in Centralia and runs through here," she said. "That's where we got the name."
Scattering Fork Outdoor Center is comprised of 47 acres with the creek, forests and trails. It's a 501(3)(c) nonprofit organization.
"This is our 25th year," she said. "We started in 1992 when I retired from teaching."
While it's open to pre-arranged groups, most of the time, the facility is closed to the public. However, Worstell said a public day with specific activities is hosted every month except during December's hunting season.
"We've always had teams, Boy Scouts and Girl Scout groups," Worstell said, adding contracts are drawn up with each group wishing to have events there. "We do kindergarten groups, preschool groups, garden clubs and retired teachers (groups)."
She added her family helped create trails, and her daughter, Mary Jane, has also designed some of the features.
"We have a big pavilion and can sit 50 people with chairs and tables quite easily," Worstell added. "We do a lot of things. It's a nice place, except when it rains too much. You'll need your boots."
Trails are wheelchair accessible, she added. There is a low ropes course, but insurance has gone up so much that this feature is being discontinued, Worstell added.
On March 18, a public program will be offered 2-4 p.m. "The Sight, Sounds and Smells of Spring" will be a free event, but participants are welcome to give a $2 donation.
The Nature Revealed Workshop is part of MDC's Discover Nature Schools program that helps prepare educators to teach hands-on courses. Teacher guides will be provided at the March 31 workshop for free, along with additional resources to support the curriculum.
Nature Revealed provides a diverse collection of learning experiences that help young students discover the relationship between nature and everyday living. Both teachers and parents can use the activities to stimulate children's sense of wonder in nature.
"Students will learn important lessons including how to recognize poison ivy and to leave a place cleaner than they found it," Moore said. "The book also has fun activities like puzzles that illustrate the connection between plant and animal products, animal tracks, and the different types of energy. These lessons focus on observing and respecting nature, which can help Missouri students become conservationists for life."
MDC's Discover Nature Schools program provides no-cost curriculum materials to teachers and schools in the state of Missouri. Curriculum materials are available for preschool through 12th grade and are aligned with Missouri state standards to help teachers and students meet required learning expectations. Approximately 98 percent of school districts and 40 percent of schools in the state participate in the program.
Nature Revealed is a curriculum guide filled with activities for preschool-aged children. The teacher's guide is based on the Project Construct framework. This course is MOPD-approved, and attendees can receive ChildCare Aware Clock hours for their time in the workshop.
Space is limited to 20 participants for this workshop and attendees must register by signing in to MDC's teacher portal here: nature.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/teacher-portal.
For questions or more information, visit mdc.mo.gov or contact the Hannibal MDC office at 573-258-3530.
For teachers interested but unable to attend this workshop, inquire about hosting a local workshop with Moore at 573-258-3530, ext. 6378, or Kathi.Moore@mdc.mo.gov.
Scattering Fork Outdoor Center hosts monthly events throughout the year that are open to the public. Coming events include:
Friday: Sights, Sounds and Smells of Spring. 2-4 p.m.
April 22: Wild Flower Walks and jelly tasting (including violet jelly). 2-4 p.m.
May 20: Wild Edibles Seminar. Find out what delectable treats can be made from wild sources. 2-4 p.m.
June 2: National Walk A (Our) Trail Day.
July 15: Stay Out Of The Sun Day. Hike in the woods. 2-4 p.m.
Aug. 11: National Picnic Month. Bring a picnic and park yourself under the trees. 1 p.m.
Sept. 9: Grandparent's Day. Children can bring their grandparents to this event, which is fun for everyone. 2-4 p.m.
Oct. 21: National Nut Day (Tree Fruit). Pick up hickory nuts and walnuts, even acorns, and take them home.
Nov. 4: Unplug Day Turn off, Tune Out.
People are asked to leave pets at home. To book a date, check availability, arrange an event or find out more, contact Laura Worstell at 573-581-3003. Also check out scatteringfork.org or the Facebook page.