I am a huge fan of education. As a parent, it’s one of the topics that I think about often. I believe that children learn in different ways, and that there is no one perfect method of education that works for every child. So when opportunities have arisen to give our kids a chance at a style that works for them, we have taken them. One of our children attended a magnet school for gifted students. One child was home schooled for a year and a half when it seemed he was falling through the cracks of the public school system. We’ve had kids in a PYP school, and in a one day per week pullout program for gifted students.

When we first heard that our public school district was starting a new science based school for 5th graders, we immediately knew this would be a good fit for our then 4th grader. And as luck would have it, he was one of the 50 kids drawn in the lottery for the inaugural year out of the 250 applicants.

The school was called the Wonders of the Ozarks Learning Facility, or the WOLF School. It was the most amazing school I have ever experienced in all my life; education through the eyes of conservation science. The entire year was spent hiking, kayaking, swimming, spelunking and climbing. They learned about native plants by seeing them where they grow. They learned to fish, they had gun safety training and got to fire hunting weapons. They learned archery. They learned how to make a fire in the wilderness and how to cook their fish on a campfire. They went on day long field trips sometimes two or three times per week. Inside their school building were the animals from the Wonders of Wildlife Museum. The kids learned to handle animals starting from cockroaches and moving up to snakes and birds and were invited to continue participating in the program even after 5th grade. Because their field experience was so fun, the students were all willing to focus on reading and math when they were back in their classroom. Somehow, the teachers fit it all in, with very little homework.

Our son was excited to go to school every day and never once did he come up with a “stomach ache” because he didn’t want to go to school. He was incredibly happy and challenged in the best possible way. He came home and taught the rest of us things on a weekly basis. Just the other day one of his older siblings was talking about a high school field trip to a cave, and he was able to describe what she would find in the cave and tell her how to identify the items she would be looking for. (Keep in mind that it’s been three years since he went to WOLF).

The reason I’m thinking about this right now is that when the school first opened, even though it was in an old Kmart building behind Bass Pro, it was still amazing. This month, the new school was completed, so we were invited for a reunion and to see where the current WOLF students get to learn. Oh my goodness, I already told you that it was the best school ever. Now the new facilities have taken this school to an entirely higher level.

The point of this post is that you as a parent have options out there. Every child is different. This school wouldn’t have worked for all kids. This school was designed for kids who like to be outside picking up rocks and bugs, exploring and doing. But there are other options out there for other types of learners. Stay open to the possibility of moving your child to a better school for him. Don’t worry about having the same amount of homework as other kids in the district. Don’t worry about test scores. The goal is for your child to learn and have a great experience doing it. I don’t remember my son’s test scores from that year and I don’t care what they were. What I know is that he learned more in school that year than all the prior years combined. He will forever know that learning is supposed to be fun. This is what education should be like for everyone.

Check out some of my photos from the reunion night:

The hallway.

hallway

Camo backpacks lined up. This brought back memories.

camo backpacks lined up

A coat hook. They were all different leaves.

leaf coat hook

Fireplace. Wow.

fireplace

The attention to detail in the school was Walt Disney-like. I have never seen anything like it. They even thought about the carpet.

carpet

An owl who (pun intended) lives there.

owl

A barn owl. It was a sixth grader holding this owl.

barn owl

Light on the porch. Lovely.

light

Springfield, MO is a place where public and private sectors collaborate on a regular basis. The WOLF School is one of the finest examples. Thank you Springfield Public Schools, Bass Pro, and The Wonders of Wildlife Museum. You make this a great place to live and educate our children.

Linking up:
Fun Stuff Fridays @ Toys in the Dryer

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3 Responses to WOLF School in Springfield, MO

  1. PaulaGail Blood says:

    I completely agree with everything in this article. My 11 year old currently attends this amazing school. She has thrived there. She is making straight “A”‘s and she always wants to go to school, never fakes illness and is devastated when she really isn’t well enough to go. She has learned so many things that I do not have the skill set to teach her. I applaud SPS for thinking outside of the box and giving this program a chance. It has soared.

  2. [...] science based school when he was in 5th grade. It was an amazing public school. I wrote about it here. For the class Valentine’s party that year, each child made their own mailbox to receive [...]

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