Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
Missouri Ecological Services' Partner in Education Plants SEEDS of Inspiration at Midwest Regional Office
Midwest Region, September 14, 2007
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Principal Teresa VanDover and Fish and Wildlife Biologist Andy Roberts with shovel-nose sturgeon during SEEDS program at Lee Expressive Arts School. 
- FWS photo by Rick Hansen.
Principal Teresa VanDover and Fish and Wildlife Biologist Andy Roberts with shovel-nose sturgeon during SEEDS program at Lee Expressive Arts School.

- FWS photo by Rick Hansen.

- Photo Credit: n/a

Principal Teresa VanDover accompanied Missouri Ecological Services staff on behalf of Lee Expressive Arts School in Columbia, Missouri to a SEEDS Brown Bag discussion forum on September 14, at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Midwest Regional Office in Minneapolis, Minnesota.


The round table discussion brought together key Regional Office employees to address the Service’s role in combating the growing nature-deficiency epidemic in children, especially amongst inner city youth. Field Supervisor Charlie Scott, Administrative Officer Becky Clearwater, and Outreach Specialist Ashley Spratt presented an overview of Missouri Ecological Service’s success with the SEEDS program at Lee Expressive Arts School and encouraged other field offices to expand nature connecting initiatives across the region.  


The SEEDS program utilized U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologists’ expertise of endangered Boone County species and introduced students to the species they can find in their own backyards. In addition to discussing nature connecting curriculum with Dr. Vandover, Regional Office staff also heard impact statements from Lee Expressive Arts School teachers and Missouri ES biologists in on-camera interviews. The reception and assessment of the SEEDS program was overwhelmingly positive.


In addition to discussing SEEDS as a model for other field offices to adapt and expand, brown bag attendants learned about challenges within the public school system in relation to the Service’s objective to connect children to nature. Lee Expressive Arts School is a demographically diverse urban elementary school composed of 10 percent Hispanic, 10 percent Asian, 20 percent African American, and 60 percent Caucasian students.  According to Dr. VanDover, Lee’s attendance boundaries reach far beyond the immediate neighborhood, into apartment buildings, trailer courts and Section 8 Housing. Students face structural and cultural barriers to exposure to the outdoors. Dr. VanDover’s discussion of mental, physical and behavior health challenges in children encouraged insightful feedback from Regional Director Robyn Thorson and others on the benefits exposure to nature can provide in resolving hot topic issues such as childhood obesity, attention deficit disorders, and even depression. Dr. VanDover confirmed that the popularity of video games, television, and the internet have replaced outdoor exploration, while in many cases the lack of physical green space on school grounds limits extensive outdoor activities.


Despites the school’s inner-city location, Lee Expressive Arts School has an 18 year history of arts integrated curricula and strives to connect children with nature through dance, music, arts, drama, and literature. This unique arts-focused learning environment provides inner city learners with a suitable link between the school environment and the natural environment. Missouri Ecological Services plans to expand the SEEDS program to include outdoor field trips and incorporate learning through the arts as a channel for educating children about their natural environment. Missouri Ecological Services aims to continue connecting children with nature at Lee Expressive Arts School, and encourages pro-active involvement of other field offices in their own communities to combat nature-deficiency at a grass-roots level.

Contact Info: Larry Dean, 612-713-5312, Larry_Dean@fws.gov
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