Discover Nature Grants Program

The Springfield Plateau Chapter of Missouri Master Naturalist has long been engaged with southwest Missouri schools and students through our trunk presentations; participation in GLADE, LAD, and Junior Achievement programs; and hands-on learning projects.  In 2020, the chapter will expand its outreach to schools and teachers participating in the Missouri Department of Conservation's Discover Nature Schools program.  Specifically, we will offer a total of $1,500 annually (budgeted January 1 through December 31) in the form of $250 and $500 grants.

Who's eligible for grants - Schools already in the Discover Nature Schools program at any of the program levels.

What's eligible for a grant - The Master Naturalist grants are not meant to compete with the one-time-only grants MDC offers for approved instructional and outdoor classroom materials and field trip reimbursement of bus transportation costs and experiences.  Rather, the Master Naturalist grants are for other expenses incurred in using the Discover Nature curriculum, such as scopes and binoculars; outdoor classroom development; and stipends for teachers' personal time for training and projects.  Since the MDC Grants are one-time-only funding, the Master Naturalist grants could be used to expand or modify an existing project.

Application process and timing - Grant applications must be submitted by email to Discover Nature Grants Chairperson, Georgia Virnig, (g.virnig@sbcglobal.net) by November 1, 2021. Applications will be forwarded to the Discover Nature Grants Committee and evaluated by December 1, 2021
 

Reports - Teachers receiving grants must submit a summary report at the end of the project and/or year to The Springfield Plateau Master Naturalist, and in turn the committee will evaluate the project.

Master Naturalist involvement and evaluation - A Master Naturalist will be assigned as a "consultant" to the responsible teacher and will provide guidance as requested and will complete the scoring guide at the end of the project.  The guide is available for access by teachers at any time of the year so they will know how their project will be evaluated.  See the Evaluation Form link below.

Questions - Contact  Georgia Virnig, 417-234-4751, g.virnig@sbcglobal.net, chairperson.

Master Naturalist grants get students outside to learn

In the COVID-19 school year of 2020-21, two fifth grade science teachers have turned on their students to nature and gardening, thanks to grants from the Springfield Plateau Chapter of Missouri Master Naturalists.

The grants of hundreds of dollars support teachers who have participated in the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Discover Nature curriculum and who previously received grants from MDC. The Master Naturalist grants provide additional funding for building outdoor classrooms, growing plants, purchasing supplies and equipment and easing the financial burden on teachers who often pay for such items when school coffers are empty.

 

Forsyth builds an outdoor classroom

 

At Forsyth Middle School, Montye Mickelson and her science students turned a barren space outside their classroom into an outdoor classroom where they can observe wildlife.

“Our goal was to build the outdoor classroom to have a space to watch nature, especially since we were not doing any field trips,” Mickelson said. Students in an elective class at the end of the day researched how they might transform the space and created a design. They priced their ideas online at Home Depot to help prepare a budget. They also researched what attracted birds and animals, what native Missouri plants they liked, the difference between perennials and annuals. “Those 25 kids did a lot of research!” she added.

She explained the space was filled with cement, weeds and dirt following construction of the new school. “It was so ugly!” she said. Once she received the grant, all 80+ of her science students lent a hand in following the landscape design, adding grasses, flower beds, a weather station, birdhouses, feeding stations, shrubs and trees.

“They did a rock walkway, built birdhouses and painted rocks and birdhouses. I had rotator cuff surgery before spring break, so my husband loaded and delivered the stuff, and the kids unloaded it. They’ve done most of the work themselves,” she said.

“During testing time in May, we saw our first birds and squirrels right outside our window. I was as excited as they were!”

Students wrapped up their school year by working on sundials for the classroom so they can observe the different times of day, how shadows fall, etc.

Other teachers and classes are “pretty curious” about the outdoor classroom, and Mickelson is encouraged that other teachers may follow suit. For now, she’s planning on the next crop of students putting up signs and building a picket fence around the classroom.

 

Willard builds a greenhouse

 

Among her 75 science students, Mary Blackburn’s garden team at Willard Intermediate School had a vision in early 2020 of sharing seeds with other students and teachers from a yet-to-be built garden. Right before the shutdown in March 2020, they got started. A Boy Scout working on his Eagle badge built higher-standing planting boxes for handicapped students to use. Blackburn’s son built more traditional boxes 1 foot tall. During the summer, Blackburn and her son filled the boxes with compost from the Springfield yard waste center. Last fall, a new gardening team experimented in a science project to see how green beans responded when water, sunlight, soil and air were withheld. The surviving plants went into the garden boxes.

“Then we got the grant money from Master Naturalists, which changed everything,” Blackburn said. “We were able to fill the remaining boxes with compost, to buy some hand tools and to plan a greenhouse students could use year-round.”

Unfortunately, the first 10-foot x 10-foot greenhouse built by a custodian succumbed to high winds because of its location. A second built by maintenance crew suffered the same fate, again because of its site. Finally, students took matters into their own hands.

“The students rebuilt it themselves. A bunch of 10-year-olds fixed the problem by moving the greenhouse to a less windy location. It was a good experience for them to learn they had it in a too windy a spot. Now it’s out of the way of people mowing and won’t blow away,” she said.

The garden team then researched what they could plant, see germinate and produce before the end of the school year. They also learned about weather and the importance of paying attention to forecasts.

“They had a lot invested in it, and it was all their choices,” Blackburn said. Students planted spinach, lettuce, kale, radishes, carrots and peas in the outdoor beds. Inside the greenhouse, they planted flower seeds and were able to send flowers home to all 75 science students for Mother’s Day, as well as to all school employees.

“They really feel the greenhouse and garden are their legacy. Next year they believe students can grow year-long in the greenhouse and boxes,” Blackburn said. “I probably knew in the back of my mind that kids can do these things. They can figure out what to plant, what to do to take care of the plants or to do differently. … They have the ability to do these things and learn from that. The students guided the project, took responsibility and were very proud of themselves.”

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For more information on the MN grants go to https://www.springfieldmasternaturalist.com/grant-opportunities. Learn more about MDC’s Discover Nature curriculum and grants at https://education.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature-schools.

Forsyth Middle School

Forsyth Middle School

Forsyth Middle School

Forsyth Middle School

Forsyth Middle School

Forsyth Middle School

Forsyth Middle School

Forsyth Middle School

Forsyth Middle School

Willard Intermediate School

Willard Intermediate School

Willard Intermediate School

Willard Intermediate School

Willard Intermediate School

Willard Intermediate School

Willard Intermediate School

Willard Intermediate School

Willard Intermediate School

Willard Intermediate School

Willard Intermediate School

Willard Intermediate School