Rural Schools on the Prairie Turn to Land for Learning and Inspiration. Rural Trust Featured Project.Report as inadecuate

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America's prairie land is under economic and ecological stress. Acting on the belief that rural schools can help revitalize their communities when schools' activities are related to the places where they are located, schools in Arizona, Kansas, and Nebraska are integrating prairie studies across the K-12 curricula. With the help of area organizations and volunteers, they use the prairie environment for fieldwork, research, service projects, and entrepreneurial activities. Seligman (Arizona) high school students are working with naturalists from Arizona Game and Fish to reintroduce the rare black-footed ferret to the area. This involves monitoring and researching prairie dogs (their prey) and the species on which they depend. Students are also doing community beautification work and writing a history of Seligman. In the Flint Hills (Kansas), workshops familiarize teachers with place-based educational techniques. One workshop alumna instituted a project in which seniors and third graders jointly studied the area's tallgrass prairie ecosystem and cultural traditions. Another has involved his entire high school in research into local water issues. Through creating a community park, a local primary school studied ecology, community history, and folklore. Boone County (Nebraska) students learn and practice environmental stewardship by helping to transform a local nature preserve from ranch land to its pre-agricultural landscape and by monitoring local water supplies. When students participate in the civic life of the community and initiate projects that benefit their families and neighbors, they become more motivated. Adults stop seeing them as problems and start vesting hope in them for the future. (TD)

Descriptors: Educational Cooperation, Elementary Secondary Education, Environmental Education, Experiential Learning, Field Instruction, Integrated Curriculum, Outdoor Education, Place Based Education, Relevance (Education), Rural Schools, School Community Relationship, Service Learning

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Author: Null, Elizabeth Higgins


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