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Back to School!

If you have kids, you know August is the last chance for outdoor family adventures before school - and a busy schedule - begins again. For teachers, it's time to prepare for a new year of students.

Education is important in my family. Many of my relatives were teachers, including my mother. I was a science teacher before joining the Conservation Department, and my wife, Janet, taught for many years before becoming the principal at Thorpe J. Gordon Elementary School in Jefferson City. I know how hard teachers and school administrators work for Missouri kids.

Today, "No Child Left Behind" is a mandate under federal law. It emphasizes accountability and assessment of student progress. Our challenge is to help Missouri teachers include conservation concepts within their tight, demanding schedules and to inspire Missouri students, who are increasingly distracted from the natural world, to appreciate the importance of conservation.

The Department of Conservation provides funds, educational materials and training to help teachers and students connect to the outdoors and our fish, forest and wildlife resources.

For example, the Department provides grants for developing outdoor classrooms. We also offer teachers educational "trunks" filled with outdoor teaching tools and periodic informational newsletters. Frequently, teachers will avail themselves of specialized training in a variety of conservation subjects and outdoor activities, often for college credit.

Many other resources are provided free to schools or are available on a free-loan basis, including conservation curriculum packages, posters, videos, computer games, books and the Missouri Conservationist magazine's Outside In section.

Kids can get directly involved and stay connected to the outdoors either in their classrooms or at Department locations. Training in hunter safety, birding, camping, orienteering, fishing, hunting and other outdoor skills are popular offerings conducted by numerous Conservation Agents and Outdoor Skills Specialists. Kids can even take an independent conservation study course through our Conservation Frontiers program.

The variety of opportunities can be overwhelming. That's why we have Department staff focused on contacting schools and youth leaders. They explain what is available and make recommendations on what might best fit a school's or teachers' needs. To find the Conservation Education Consultant or Outdoor Skills Specialist nearest you, visit our web-site at <www.missouriconservation. org> and click on "Education," or write Education Materials Form, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102 .

Many youngsters have their first contacts with conservation and with the Conservation Department at school. We do everything we can to make those first contacts positive because today's children are tomorrow's conservationists. The future of Missouri's natural resources will be in good hands only if our children value the natural world and practice the wise use of its many gifts.

John D. Hoskins, Director

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