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Tallgrass Prairie Center

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Helping Species in Need

Adapted from Keepers of the Earth

* Educators please refer to New to Nature for information on becoming comfortable teaching through the outdoors

Overall Activity

Work with students to research the background of endangered or threatened species in your region, country, or world in groups or individually. Get involved in efforts and calls to action to save or preserve some of the species researched. Give presentations of your findings to one another or local councils, libraries, or conservation groups. Refer to Procedure for more information and details.

Grade Range and Relevant Iowa Standards: 7th-12th

  • MS-LS2-1. Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for the effects of resource availability on organisms and populations of organisms in an ecosystem
  • MS-LS2-5. Evaluate competing design solutions for maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem services.
  • HS-LS2-7. Design, evaluate, and refine a solution for reducing the impacts of human activities on the environment and biodiversity.
  • HS-LS2-8. Evaluate the evidence for the role of group behavior on individual and species’ chances to survive and reproduce.

Goals/Objectives:

  • Establish with students a process of how to become involved in helping species survival
  • Understand the various ways to inform others about environmental issues
  • Students should gain skills and experience in researching, writing, and/or speaking through community or classroom presentations and discussions

Materials:

Procedure:

1. Possible introductory discussion points:

  • Native Americans used burning to create more healthy habitat (food & cover) for deer and other animals and in turn controls the number of animals that were hunted.
  • Threats and complications of animals and plants such as air pollution/water pollution, introduction of invasive species, destruction or fragmentation of habitats through our development, overpopulation and sharing of resources or space by us
  • Discuss definitions and/or differences between Endangered, Threatened, and Special Concern. Iowa DNR Site
  • Review extinct species such as the Passenger Pigeon, the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, or the Carolina Parakeet. Review a success story such as the recovery of many birds of prey from the ban of DDT.
  • The level of hunting where sufficient numbers are maintained to ensure healthy populations is known as sustainable yield.
  • Habitat preservation, limits or bans on hunting, pollution responsibility and prevention, or other sustainable practices.

2. The students will research the history and status of a jeopardized species in Iowa or region of the midwest. Refer to Iowa DNR site linked above for species lists. 

3. If possible, find groups, organizations, or scientists that are active in preserving species or species habitat and interview them. 

4. Use various sources of media and graphical displays to present findings to class, conservation boards, or younger student groups as appropriate

Extensions:

  • Refer to Iowa’s Nature Series for resources on plants, vertebrates, invertebrates, wetlands, and prairies
  • Refer to other Programs and Projects on the Tallgrass Prairie Center webpage to learn more about planting native Iowa species
  • Create group or class-wide letters to write to government officials expressing the need for support and funding of the care of certain species in your area
  • Volunteer at local nature preserves to assist with habitat restoration
  • Create stories, pictures and/or models of extinct animals, reasons for how they became extinct, and what could have been done to save them
  • Create slogans, posters, or bumper stickers of calls to action for a specific species of concern or ways to lessen environmental impacts

Prairie Connections (some information sourced from Iowa’s Nature Series):

  • Not only do prairie plants absorb carbon dioxide and reduce erosion by holding soil and nutrients in place, animals depend on them for food and shelter. Refer to Tallgrass Prairie Center’s Pollinator Conservation page for information on pollinator partners and how people work together to help these species.
  • Some examples of endangered & threatened tallgrass plants are Large-leaved aster, Whiskbroom parsley, Eastern prairie fringed orchid, & Queen of the prairie. Reference the Endangered, Threatened, and Special Concern plant species list of Iowa. Students generally may want to focus on researching animals, however, strongly emphasize the importance of plant biodiversity and its connections to all living things. Why is it important to conserve plant species and not simply animal species?
  • Consider using Botany Beginners as a resource for your classroom (10th-12th). Anyone who has a desire to learn how to identify native plants of the tallgrass prairie will find it useful!
  • The biodiversity of plant life has been drastically reduced by our human activity of land use and pollution along with climate change. Consider adding native plant vegetation to your yard with this helpful brochure: Plant Iowa Native. Investigate how planting natives helps increase plant biodiversity and subsequently other living things.