Columbia Residents Share Ideas on Nature School

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COLUMBIA - Columbia Public Schools is developing its first nature school. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources and Columbia Public Schools hosted an open house Thursday to hear ideas for the school from the public.

People were invited to share their ideas in several different categories, including building design and materials, park-related activities for students and potential partnerships, public use of the building, and external environment.

The campus would be located in Rock Bridge Memorial State Park and would offer students a nature-based learning system.

This school would be the first nature school in the country to be located in a state park. Students would spend their days analyzing ecosystems, researching and presenting their data.

Columbia Schools science coordinator, Mike Szydlowski, said although the students would be learning in a different environment, other academic areas will not be neglected. Students would be in the field learning about, "caves, and prairies, and and forests," said Szydlowski. "Then they would write about it, read about it and do the history and math."

Amy Duncan is an eighth grade teacher at Smithton Middle School and thinks there needs to be more of a variety in the types of schooling districts offer.

She said this system would be a backdrop to learning about anything a typical fifth grader would learn about, "you just do it through a different lens."

The district said the it plans to have the school ready beginning in the 2015-2016 school year.

Fifth-grade students would be selected through a lottery process for enrollment.