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National Content Standards

Life Science Content Standard C:

Grades K-4
• The characteristics of organisms
• Life cycles of organisms
• Organisms and environments

Grades 5-8
• Populations and ecosystems
• Diversity and adaptations of organisms

Grades 9-12
• Biological evolution
• Interdependence of organisms
• Matter, energy, and organization in living systems

Catclaw Sensitive Briar

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

Butterfly Milkweed
Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

“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%-2% 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 prairie as part of the school landscape. Then, watch as the grasses grow, flowers bloom, and critters flourish.

Backyard Wildlife Habitat - National Wildlife Federation

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 their 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, fundraisers, and incorporate the habitat in cross-curricular learning. After completing your project, apply to be a certified Schoolyard Habitat.

Bell Live On the Prairie

Bell Museum of Natural History at the University of Minnesota provides a virtual experience in exploring the prairie. The four 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 a Prairie. Select the plants and animals that will live in your prairie by consulting the A Field Guide to the Prairie. If you select a harmful plant or animal, you will be provided with a reason why and 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 Websites with information about prairies categorized by state and country and a list of reserves in the United States 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.

EEK! Into the Outdoors-It’s an Adventure!

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 Website. Type in the word Prairie and 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. Click on plants and animals to access two interactive posters that enable you to learn more about the creatures that inhabit the prairies. Click on Critter Corner to find details about prairie wildlife. Vertebrates, invertebrates, birds, and mammals all live on the prairie. Rounding out the site is a teacher’s page with activities, calendar, resources, and news.

Friends of the Prairie Learning Center

The Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge and Website has a mission that includes increasing public awareness of the refuge, encouraging public participation in prairie restoration and preservation, and promoting public use and enjoyment of the refuge. More than five thousand acres of tallgrass prairies and native Midwest wildlife are located near Prairie City, Iowa. The refuge is a reconstruction of the native plant and animal communities found in Iowa during the mid 1800s. The site describes the prairie ecosystem that has been reconstructed on five thousand acres and the educational programs available. There are maps of the area for driving and walking. The Kid Stuff link includes an interactive Prairie Passage word search. Take a Hike in a neighborhood to look for objects in nature, answer questions, and email your results to Friends of the Prairie Learning Center. Read and create poetry in the Prairie Poetry and send in your best work to the site. Take a tallgrass prairie virtual tour. Answer the questions at the bottom of the screen and learn more about prairies. Don’t miss the photo gallery of plants and animals on the prairie. Links to the National Geographic Prairies site and the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge provide additional information. The Prairie Ecosystem link includes colorful maps of the United States indicating the three distinct areas of prairie development. Iowa Prairies is a book that may be ordered for one dollar from Iowa’s Biological Communities Series. There is also an educator’s link that includes information for teachers.

Ohio Prairies

You may be surprised to know that prairies are a native ecosystem to Ohio. Learn about the prairie regions of Ohio, native plants, and Making a Prairie Garden. Maps provide an overview of the prairie land prior to European settlement. If you are looking for large close-up photographs of prairie species, view selected Ohio prairie species with over thirty breathtaking shots of flowers from blazing-star to queen-of-the-prairie. Be sure to print Making a Prairie Garden to use as a resource in your classroom. This handy guide includes an introduction to prairie gardening, choosing the site, planning, collecting seeds, planting, and maintaining the garden. Another helpful feature is the list of companies where you can purchase seeds.

Seed Companies

Listed below are a few companies that sell prairie seeds. You may also wish to search the Web for more listings or check your local garden center.

Prairie Moon

Prairie Nursery

Print Resources

Prairie in your Pocket: A Guide to Plants of the Tallgrass Prairie by Mark Miller

This nifty foldout identification guide will serve you well on a school field trip. It is laminated and literally would fit into a pocket or pouch. The colorful illustrations are accompanied by the common and scientific names, plant height, and bloom time.

Gardening with Prairie Plants by Sally Wasowski

Gardening with Prairie Plants is a comprehensive guide divided into three sections. Prairies and Prairie Gardens show an array of examples that feature different combinations of flowers and grasses. Design, Installation, and Maintenance provides interesting ideas and tips for creating and maintaining your masterpiece. Plant Profiles is an exhaustive compendium of plants featuring maps where the native plants thrive.

A Practical Guide to Prairie Reconstruction by Carl Kurtz

For a community interested in reconstructing a prairie on a small to large plot of land, this book will serve as a quick guide. Topics range from site selection to planting with farm equipment.

Prairie Restoration Example

An acre of land from five acres was restored near Mechanicsburg, Ohio

Originally Published May/Jun 2007

UpdatedMarch 14, 2015
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