Particles and Prairies Program and Kit are no longer available.
The Teacher's Guide Sampler is available for former teachers.

Particles and Prairies has been replaced by Energy and Ecosystems.
Teachers who have taken Particles and Prairies are eligible for the Energy and Ecosystems field trips.

This activity was in the 2001 Particles and Prairies Sampler.
See the 2006 Sampler

What is a Prairie?

Table of Contents - Activities:

Invertebrates - Fermilab Quadrat Study - Prairie - School Quardat Study - Baked Potato

PURPOSE: To determine what students already know about the prairie.

OBJECTIVE: The student will recognize that much about the prairie is familiar and will categorize class-generated information into meaningful classifications.

BACKGROUND: This exerices is a valuabe scheme-building activity that will fulfill its objective in any discipline. You may wish to have another academic teacher use this as a cross-curricular experience.


  • Blackboard, overhead or large newsprint with markers
  • Student Pages: Page 1; Page 2; Page 3
  • Scratch Paper


  • Brainstorm with your class information about the prairie by asking, "When you think of a prairie, what comes to mind?"
  • Accept all answers as valid and place the word or words on overhead, blackboard or newsprint. Encourage students to limit answers to one or two words. (approximately 15 minutes)
  • Continue until you have at least 40 responses. (Be sure not to cut off contributions too quickly. It is important that everyone has a chance to respond.
  • Instruct students to copy words onto scratch paper and individually separate their resposes into no more than five labeled categories. Label the circles on Student Page 1. (Remind student that these categories may be different than their classmates.) Write the appropriate repsonses on the labeled circles on Student Page 1. (approximately 15 minutes)
  • NEXT DAY: Teacher will separate class into groups of three or four students. (You may wish to utilize cooperative learning structure for activity.) Each student will share their category titles with the group, and the group will agree upon no more than five composite categories. (Leave students to their own devices for selection. Observe group dynamics.) Allow no more that 20 minutes to complete selection, categorizing and writing responses on Student Page 2.
  • Reconvene class and ask all groups to share categories. List all topic titles on board or newsprint. Eliminate duplicates and ask for class suggestions to narrow titles to no more than five categories. Organize reponses into five final groups. Students will fill out Student Page 3. (15-20 minutes)
  • VERY IMPORTANT! Homework Assignment - Instruct each student to write a short essay, compose a poem or draw a picture depicting what they think a prairie will look like. Collect and save until the day of the prairie trip.

Particles and Prairies Video - A Research Experience for Middle School Students

This is a combination of all motion sequences and includes the history, ecology, research and restoration of the Fermilab prairies. Teacher should note that all of the following motion sequence presentation topics are shown.

Program Contact: Sue Sheehan -
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Last Update: March 6, 2001