Magazine article Multimedia & Internet@Schools

Plant a Prairie Garden

Magazine article Multimedia & Internet@Schools

Plant a Prairie Garden

Article excerpt

"It appears as though the stars from heaven have fallen on the earth."

-Charles Dickens

BEFORE the European settlers arrived, there were huge prairies stretching for miles across the North American continent. Only remnants-about 1 percent to 2 percent-of this environmental habitat remain. This has prompted restoration projects by government agencies, foundations, and nonprofit organizations in several states. Preserves have been established by sowing native seeds and employing controlled burning, a necessary element for keeping the prairie healthy. In addition, naturalists are conserving old cemetery grounds where indigenous plants have not been disturbed.

Teachers and students can learn about prairies through virtual field trips or by visiting a nature center nearby. Back in the classroom, students can use this knowledge to design and plant their own prairies as part of the school landscape. Then, watch as the grasses grow, the flowers bloom, and the critters flourish.


Watch more than 25 video clips about prairie habitats, restoration, and fire management at this PBS Web site. Incorporate these clips, into your lessons or use The Formation and Value of Temperate Grasslands provided by PBS. Students will be fascinated with the wealth of information.


At first, you may think a garden project will be an overwhelming task. However, it is not difficult with careful planning and help from the National Wildlife Federation. Simply follow its step-by-step process. Create your habitat team; inventory, survey, and map the site; set goals; provide four basic elements; acquire resources through community outreach and fundraisers; and incorporate the habitat in cross-curricular learning. After completing your project, apply to be a certified Schoolyard Habitat.


The Bell Museum of Natural History at the University of Minnesota provides a virtual experience in exploring the prairie. The parts include LIVE! from the Prairie, Build-A-Prairie, Field Guide to the Prairie, Curriculum Goodies, Experience the Prairie, and Researching the Prairie. They also provide materials on teaching ecosystems that match the National Education Standards. Restore a shortgrass and tallgrass prairie by clicking on "Build-APrairie." Select the plants and animals that will live in your prairie by consulting the Field Guide to the Prairie. If you select a harmful plant or animal, you will be provided with a reason why and are allowed to make a correction. Watch your garden grow from page to page. At the end of your prairie-building process, there is information about maintaining the garden using prescribed burns. On the Prairie Curriculum Goodies includes information about the history of the Dakota Indians and bison. English words are translated into the Dakota Indian name with a pronunciation guide. Click on the Indian name and hear the audio pronunciation in the Dakota language. Other features include a list of Web sites with information about prairies categorized by state and by country and a list of reserves in the U.S. with their phone numbers. Since the prairie is one of North America's great ecosystems and a vital habitat for many plants and animals, this site offers a great resource in understanding and restoring prairies.


The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and Discover Mediaworks sponsor programming that encourages learning and enjoyment of the great outdoors. Search or browse articles on this Web site. Type in the word "prairie" to discover links to many different articles. Select "What is a Prairie" to find information about the three types of prairies with links to a selection of plants growing in each environment. Appealing photographs depict the beauty of these prairie habitats. Click on "milkweed" to discover how it was named and other amazing facts. …

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