CPS partners with Mo. DNR for new nature school

Apr 22, 2014

Dr. Peter Stiepleman
Credit Columbia Public Schools

A unique partnership between Columbia Public Schools and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources has sparked plans for a new school rooted in nature and science education. One-third of the $1.2 million project will be funded by the Department of Natural Resources.      


The nature based school will house approximately 100 fifth graders.

Columbia Public Schools spokesperson Michelle Baumstark said the district was interested in creating another magnet school for its students. Baumstark said that although the school will have a larger focus on nature, students will still have a normal curriculum.

“Students would still be learning all aspects of the academic curriculum—math, science, English, literacy,” Baumstark said. “It would just have an increased focused on nature.”

Incoming superintendent Peter Stiepleman for Columbia Public Schools said on a recent episode of KBIA’s “Intersection” that plans for the nature school are underway. The school will be located at Rock Bridge State Park.

Stiepleman also said the district is focused on providing its students with enrichment opportunities for a growing community.                                                                                        

“We used to have about 660 — four years ago 660 second language learners,” Stiepleman said. “We’re now up to about 990 in only four years. So we continue to grow and of course that’s refugee community as well, but certainly Spanish speakers as well. So for me, I think that’s important. That’s enrichment, or maybe it’s part of the core now.”

Stiepleman said forms of alternative learning will benefit a generation moving towards a 21st century mindset.                                                                                                                           

“But also enrichment is about providing choice and opportunity providing choice and opportunity for families,” Stiepleman said. “For example, we have Lee art institute here in our community. We have Ridgeway IGE School — individualized guided education is a multi-age model. And then we have Benton STEM — Science Technology Engineering and Math. So these are three choice schools that you can apply to as part of a lottery.”

The nature school will join the ranks of other experimental schools in the district, such as Lee Expressive Arts Elementary School and Benton STEM Elementary School. The nature school is scheduled to open in 2015.