Discover Nature Schools

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Two students analyzing the species caught in their dip net.
MDC staff

One of the best ways for students to learn about nature is to interact with the outdoors. That’s why the Missouri Department of Conservation worked with teachers and education consultants to create a statewide conservation science education program called Discover Nature Schools (DNS).

DNS emphasizes hands-on learning, teaches problem-solving, and provides authentic and local contexts for learning. DNS teaches students from pre-K through high school about Missouri’s native plants, animals, and habitats and connects them with nature.

Key elements of the program include the following:

Student books, teacher guides, and training workshops are available at no charge to Missouri educators. Teachers who formally enroll in the DNS program are eligible for additional resources including grant opportunities for equipment and field trips.

Not only do the DNS curriculum units meet the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Missouri Learning Standards, but there are also big benefits for students. A recent study of the program shows that DNS increased the amount of time students spent in activities and field experiences outside the classroom. Learning outdoors improves students' physical and mental health, increases scores on standardized tests, and reduces attention-deficit problems.

DNS inspires students in ways that other programs do not, and test scores prove it. Students in DNS classrooms increased their scores by an average of 28 percent (significantly more than non-DNS students) during the 2014-2015 school year. Additionally, during the last four school years over a third of teachers reported a decrease in student behavior issues on the days they taught DNS.

After using the DNS program, a teacher said, “I have never had a class as excited about learning science as the one I have taught this year using this curriculum.” Another teacher said, “Just a couple of weeks ago the parents of one of my former students visited with me and thanked me for helping their daughter decide to become a marine biologist. This is strongly connected to her experiences with the animals inside and outside my classroom.”

Join over 1,600 Missouri schools, and launch the program in your school or class. Contact your local education consultant for more information. Browse all five curriculum units below.

In This Section

Nature Revealed cover detail with a sun and coneflower

Nature Revealed (Pre-K)

Nature Revealed is a diverse collection of learning experiences that give Pre-K teachers and parents the planning tools, activities, and resources to stimulate children's sense of wonder of nature.

Nature Unfolds Cover showing a turkey chick

Nature Unfolds (K-2)

Nature Unfolds introduces young students to the life cycles, seasons, weather, and basic needs of plants and animals, through hands-on activities and a fully illustrated student book.

Nature Unleashed cover with a dragonfly and a heron eating a fish

Nature Unleashed (Grades 3-5)

Nature Unleashed helps elementary students understand ecosystem connections through exploring Missouri’s ponds, forests, and prairies inside and outside the classroom. 

Nature Unhooked

Nature Unhooked (Grades 6-8)

Nature Unhooked covers all elements of aquatic ecosystems, from the properties of water molecules to the diversity of aquatic life, and how we conserve and enjoy Missouri’s aquatic ecosystems.

Nature Unbound cover

Nature Unbound (Grades 9-12)

Nature Unbound  helps high school students understand the impact of ecology on Missouri and the world through activities that get students outdoors and exploring around their school.