Some 5th-grade students who live in the Springfield, Mo. area and are interested in the outdoors have a unique learning opportunity. The Wonders of the Ozarks Learning Facility (WOLF) is a product of a very successful partnership among the Springfield public school system, Bass Pro Shops and the Wonders of Wildlife Museum (WOW).
A school of choice program, now in its 2nd year in a new classroom area in the WOW, WOLF provides learning opportunities for students with special interests in nature and the outdoors.
“WOLF students are closely connected to the outdoors through experiential learning, weekly experiences out in the field, the use of public green spaces as 21st century classrooms and a themed classroom facility,” said Sue Dyal, a teacher at WOLF.
The WOLF school chooses 46 lucky upcoming 5th graders (23 boys and 23 girls) to attend classes at WOW, as part of a conservation science-based learning program. Students must apply to attend 1 of the 2 classes offered at WOLF. Any current 4th grader with satisfactory attendance of 95 percent or better and good behavior may apply. The popularity and success of this school is apparent by the number of applications received. The past years the school has received applications for 8 times the number of spots that are available. Applicants must also reside within the Springfield public schools’ attendance area and demonstrate a passion for nature and the outdoors. Students who meet these requirements are then put into a random lottery system to be selected.
They learn the entire 5th-grade curriculum in all core subject areas through the lens of science. The teachers are provided through the Springfield school system and work in partnership with WOW educators and other conservation education organizations throughout the Ozarks.
Outside the classroom
Students spend 1 to 2 days a week outside the classroom and “in the field.” These field experiences are designed to educate the students by utilizing the Ozarks’ natural resources. The students are trained in all relevant safety procedures for these activities.
The typical school year consists of the following trips:
Water ecosystems — Students start the year actually in the water with canoes, kayaks, fishing poles and snorkels as they investigate water ecosystems.
Forest/glade/savannah ecosystems — As fall approaches, students begin hunting, fishing and hiking. As the weather cools, students are introduced to map and compass, dog training (as it applies to hunting,) outdoor cooking, wilderness first aid and fall foliage.
Cave ecosystems — During the winter months, students continue with much of the above, as is practical, but add more indoor activities including woodworking, taxidermy, rock climbing, caves/grotto, wild game cooking, nature art, trapping, eagle watching and animal handling.
Wetland/prairie ecosystems — As spring begins, the students study wetland and prairie habitats. They begin looking at wildflowers and wild edibles.
Backyard habitats — In addition to all of the above, the students will look at gardening and backyard birding.
Water ecosystems — As the students approach the end of school, and the water warms up again, they will revisit their favorite water spots with whole new perspectives.
All of the above activities wouldn’t be possible without the support of community-based partners and mentors from various organizations, including the following and many others:
I had the opportunity through my association with Cross Trail Outfitters (CTO) to guide a 2 girls this past fall on their first deer hunts. Neither of the girls had been hunting before. While they did not fill their tags, the hunts were successful in that they learned more about the animals and saw deer in the wild. It’s not always about a kill. I’m looking forward to guiding more of the WOLF students next month on a deer hunt.
Cross Trail Outfitters
CTO is a Christian-based outdoor outreach program. While its website states that it is for young men, young ladies are also being mentored, too. CTO is a growing organization. Currently, they have groups in Missouri, Illinois, Texas, North Carolina and South Carolina.
A successful model
Sue Dyal sums up the success of the school best when she says, “WOLF students are very successful, as demonstrated by their engagement, enthusiasm and improved standardized test scores. We have proven that innovative and community-driven conservation efforts in education improve student learning and increase their appreciation of the outdoors for a lifetime.”
This site is protected by wp-copyrightpro.com