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This project can serve as the organizing structure for prairie study.
Why Study a Prairie?
There are many reasons supporting the importance of this unit of study. The engaged learning and problem-based components enable the students to actively participate in their learning while acquiring learning skills necessary to properly function in tomorrow's technological society incvluding computer/Internet proficiency.
Students will understand the important role prairies played in our history and the significance that restoration may provide for future generations. Students can learn that:
Particles and Prairiesis an excellent resource for midlevel classes.
- The prairie is a rare ecosystem. Four hundred years ago, the prairie extended to over 400,000 square miles in all of North America. One hundredth of one percent of that original prairie land exists today. Almost all the plants that students see, from their lawn to tall weeds next to a road, are not native but came from Europe and Asia.
- The prairie is our natural heritage. It is what the Native Americans knew. Many of the plants of the prairie were used medicinally by generations of Native Americans. Early settlers benefited from these experiences.
- The prairie is beautiful. It has flowers blooming all season long, birds singing in the grasses, and butterflies fluttering from flower to flower.
- Prairie plants and animals are adapted for life in our climate and how they interact. For example, prairie plants are able to live through drought as well as fire. Prairie grasslands provide habitats for numerous species of animals. In many cases predators have been reintroduced into areas where some animals have become a nuisance helping to restore the balance of nature.
- The prairie created some of the best soil in the world. Some of the richest farmland in the world can be found where the prairie once flourished. The roots of the prairie plants were largely responsible for making this soil so precious. Pioneers traveled through and settled the prairie plowing native plants into farm fields.
- It is possible that a medicine, a beautiful garden flower, or a drought resistant food crop some day could be developed from prairie plants. Maybe the person who develops these things could be a student who became interested in prairie while helping develop their school prairie.
- History teaches many lessons about protecting our natural heritgae. By studying the past we may learn better land stewardship and the mistakes of the past.
Research InformationStudents must develop a substantial knowledge base about prairie ecosystems. Information may include but is not limited to:
Students may use the Internet, computers, results from quadrat studies, library resources and Fermilab data to gather information for their class presentation. They may contact other students and experts in the field.
- What is a prairie?
- What plants and animals are found in the prairie?
- What is a quadrat study?
- How do you interpret graphs, charts and raw data?
- Where are prairies located?
- Why are prairies important?
- How does time affect a prairie? (Fermilab has longitudinal data.)
- How is a prairie reconstructed? How long does it take?
- How do you maintain a prairie?
- Where will information about prairies be found?
Building Skills - Schoolyard Quadrat StudyIn order to research and understand data for this unit, students must know how to compute percentages, use a spreadsheet and be familiar with quadrat studies. Students gain understanding by completing a school lawn quadrat study to inventory exactly what is found in a square meter of schoolyard. They record plants, flowers, animals, soil and litter, enter data in a spreadsheet and make graphs for interpretation from the spreadsheet.
Doing Research - Prairie Quadrat StudyBackground information for using the Fermilab prairie data site.
Student PagesTo streamline class work, you may want to print out some of these pages in advance.
- Internet Record Sheet
- Plant Identification Sheets
- School Lawn Study
- School Lawn Quadrat Activity
- School Lawn Quadrat Study Data Sheet
- Excel Tutorial and Excel Steps
- ClarisWorks Tutorial and ClarisWorks Steps
- Worksheet - Comparing Squares
- Worksheet - Working with the Quadrat
- Worksheet - What is "Percent"?
- Worksheet - Estimating Percents
- Worksheet - Calculating Percents
- Quadrat Study
- Assessment Rubric
Online Resources - Student Page