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Dec. 20, 2017
Students learning about environmental education transformed their Northwest Missouri State University classroom into a nature center earlier this month to apply the skills and methods they learned throughout the fall.
The students in Natural Resources History and Interpretation, under the instruction of Associate Professor of Recreation Dr. Alice Foose, invited children and their families to the interactive environmental education Fair Dec. 5 in Martindale Hall.
“It’s one thing to do this in class but to actually have people from the community come in and do it, then they can see, ‘Hey, I do know what I’m talking about,’” Foose said. “It’s important to know that it’s continued learning and sometimes the lessons and the getting through to people doesn’t have to be complicated. With a limited budget, I think they did some really powerful things.”
The event featured free activities related to all things nature, including birds, fish, trees, animal tracks, ocean and mountains. Families identified the calls of regional birds with a touch screen that allowed them to listen to bird calls and take a quiz. They could play a variety of matching games or engage in activities as simple as coloring pictures or making a bird feeder with peanut butter and pine cones.
Paper cutouts of animal tracks led visitors up a staircase to the classroom, where Justin Leon, a graduate student studying biology, was waiting just inside the door with a study of animal tracking. Plaster samples gave visitors a chance to compare the tracks of squirrels, muskrat, weasel and woodchuck. Leon also provided animal stamps and coloring pages.
Alek Lanter, a junior parks and recreation management major from Kansas City, Missouri, offered a mountain-based activity, where visitors could shape formations with a mix of clay and sand called “moon sand.”
Brian Lowrimore, a junior parks and recreation management major from Blue Springs, Missouri, stood by a poster board displaying a collection of leaves found on the Northwest campus and helped visitors identify them.
“This is just good practice to be able to set up a table, using my own ideas and just getting that experience of talking to new people, explaining something that I enjoy, hoping that they can learn something from it,” Lowrimore said, adding he hopes to work at a visitors center in a state or national park.
Jamie Hassekamp, a junior parks and recreation management major from Maryville, created a fruit matching game to supplement her lesson about fruits and the benefits of trees. The nature activity reinforced her summer experience as an intern at a Lewis and Clark interpretive center.
“I was able to take everything that I have learned, and I think I do want to go into interpretation in the future,” she said. “It’s relaying a story to people in different ways so they understand it and they’re looking at the meaning behind something.”
While students also applied lessons they learned in other classes, Foose noted they’re building skills that will benefit beyond the park settings where they will work.
“Whether they go into a park setting, or they go to a city council or they present in front of an executive board, they’ll still think about not just presenting a PowerPoint but the experience,” Foose said. “They’re trying to capture the experience and trying to engage people in different ways.”
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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Northwest Missouri State University
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