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MDC offers hunter ed in schools despite COVID-19 challenges

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — COVID-19 presented considerable challenges to Missouri schools, staff, and students in 2020, including closures, cancellations, remote learning, and more. The pandemic also presented challenges to schools and instructors teaching the Missouri Department of Conservation’s (MDC) hunter education courses.

“Many schools were closed for much of the year, which reduced the number of kids who could get hunter-ed certified in schools,” said MDC Education Program Coordinator Justin McGuire. “However, MDC staff, teachers, and other volunteer instructors responded to these challenges and were still able to teach hunter education in 244 classes at 150 schools as part of their 2020 in-school curriculum. Thanks to their efforts, nearly 4,300 students were certified in hunter education in 2020.”

He added that MDC offers the course at about 160 schools per year and has provided 820 skills sessions over the past several years that resulted in certifying 15,390 students.

“The past year was obviously a little lower, by less than 20 percent, but the minimal reduction is a testament to how valuable the course is to teachers and students,” said McGuire.

McGuire, who manages MDC’s hunter education program and MDC shooting ranges around the state, added that many hunter-ed offerings were done through online sessions and staff adapted in-person sessions to meet COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

“We offered fewer public classes due to COVID-19 restrictions at many available venues,” he noted. “And we reduced the number of participants at our in-person sessions to accommodate social distancing guidelines. We also worked with individual school administrations to follow their COVID-19 policies and procedures.”

McGuire added that many schools chose to use MDC’s digital version of the hunter education student manual for distance learning while they satisfied the knowledge portion of the course. They then completed the skills session and test requirement when they were able to return to the classroom.

“MDC is fortunate to have several hundred volunteer hunter-education instructors around the state, many of whom are teachers,” McGuire said. “The growth of hunter education as a part of in-school curriculum is really exciting. Teachers are discovering that the program pairs well with physical education, agriculture, environmental science, life sciences, and other courses already being taught.”

MDC encourages teachers who would like to add hunter education to their in-school curriculum to reach out to their local MDC Conservation Educator. Find contact information by county at mdc.mo.gov/regional-contacts.

McGuire added that MDC Conservation Educators can also assist teachers with the MDC Discover Nature Schools (DNS) Program and the Missouri National Archery in the Schools Program (MONASP). Learn more about DNS at nature.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/teacher-portal/discover-nature-schools. Learn more about MONASP at nature.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/teacher-portal/monasp.