Prairie Project will teach about prairie
Oklahoma has an abundance of grasslands, which are valuable due to the economic potential they hold, their ecological role and the quality of life they provide Oklahomans.
However, they are under-appreciated, in part due to people not understanding what they are, how they operate and how they are beneficial. This is particularly evident with youth who are more separated from natural resources than previous generations.
The Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension Service is trying to do something about that. Through a project funded by Oklahoma Gas and Electric, OSU graduate student Blayr Beougher is creating a website to encourage a better understanding of Oklahoma's natural resources.
"The Prairie Project website is an effort to engage youth in learning about our prairie ecosystems," said Dwayne Elmore, OSU Extension wildlife specialist. "Our site is an interactive tool used to educate youth on various aspects and concepts related to prairies."
The site features pictures, video, audio and text, providing educational information related to prairies. Featured plants and animals include big bluestem, little bluestem, indiangrass, prairie chickens, bison, prairie dogs and others. Topics such as herbivory, prescribed fire, precipitation, disturbance, competition and food chains are also highlighted.
"The website features native prairie plants and animals and provides information on how these species play an important role in the prairie ecosystem," said Karen Hickman, professor in the Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management. "We also provide information on how humans use prairies to produce food, fiber and energy."
Teachers can also benefit through this project. Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics lesson plans are available to use as a learning tool in the classroom.
"The Prairie Project is very important to Oklahoma because it offers kids and teachers an online learning module with factual information and pictures about the prairie, which occupies a good portion of our state," Beougher said. "The website also provides teachers lesson plans to test students on their knowledge of the prairie."
The website is scheduled to be launched in January 2011.