McDonald County School District launches outdoor educational program

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“I went Monday on a hike with these kids and when they were laughing and catching lizards and things like that, all I could do was sit back and think how much I enjoyed that and how that was just so awesome,” explained program instructor Keith Jones.

Jones is a junior high school teacher at White Rock School.
He was asked by the McDonald County School District to lead ten students in its new educational program called Sope School Discovery Corps. The word “sope” is a combination of success and hope, which are the school’s cornerstone values.

“It’s really fun,” said eighth grader Ava Coffel. “You do all of these extra activities like canoeing, fly fishing, and hiking and it gets you out of the classroom, you get to learn different things, and it’s really neat.”

Coffel is one of the ten students part of the program. She joined because she wanted to learn more about the environment.

“I am a huge science geek,” Coffel continued. “I love science, everything about science, so knowing the science behind how I can help this be better in the future for more generations to come is really cool.”

To create this educational program, McDonald County School District partnered with Bass Pro Shop, the Young Outdoorsman United Group and the Missouri Department of Conservation. The goal is to give students the opportunity to experience and explore school in a different setting.

“We’re not meant to sit in a classroom eight hours a day, five days a week,” Jones explained. “We’re meant to learn in a certain way and being outdoors is one of the best ways to do that.”

Wednesday, students canoed Elk River in Noel. The Missouri Department of Conservation met with the students at River Ranch Resort and taught them how to canoe safely and the importance of conserving our water ways.

As students are doing these outdoor activities, they are given a question to answer. This week’s question is: How does society benefit from conservation?

“It’s more than just a body of water — that there is entire ecosystem,” said Jones

“I now know that everything I do, from how I’m handling my trash to how I sit outside and mow my lawn can have an effect on everything around me,” Coffel added. “It’s definitely a learning experience.”

In October, students will be learning about the basics of forestry and interviewing a logger.

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