Exploring the Tallgrass Prairie: Inquiry-Based Programs at Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center

Spring Creek Prairie’s education programming offers a rewarding blend of exploration and investigation aimed at fostering a connection and deeper understanding of our natural world.

Aside from the wind in the grass and the playful chirping of birds, visitors to Spring Creek Prairie often hear something the staff has come to expect – very specific questions from children that are answered with another question. 

In all SCP’s programs, students are encouraged to explore, observe, and analyze their surroundings, mirroring the process of authentic scientific inquiry. Fostering a spirit of curiosity and exploration, the program ignites a passion for learning and instills a sense of stewardship for the natural world. 

Students embark on a journey through the prairie, wetland, and woodland habitats through a series of engaging activities. They may conduct a sound map bird survey by watching and listening for different species of birds, explore the food web and decomposition in the woodlands, compare insect diversity in the tallgrass, and test the quality of our wetlands through macroinvertebrate sampling.  

Our spring educational programs are a testament to the center’s commitment to environmental education. Designed to immerse students in the wonders of the tallgrass prairie and other habitats present at our center, the program seamlessly integrates hands-on activities with inquiry-based learning approaches. We work with pre-schools, day cares, and public, parochial, and home schools.  

The programs are facilitated with the assistance of volunteer Discovery Leaders. Special care is taken to create enough structure so that the leaders feel confident in leading the program, but the individual outcomes remain open-ended for the students. The ratio of learners to Discovery Leader does not exceed 12 to 1 for the programs to be successfully facilitated. 

As spring transitions to summer, the education team prepares for the Summer Camp programming. Developed in partnership with the Lincoln Community Learning Centers, our summer camps give students a more in-depth, week-long program focused on the importance of birds and the places they need.  

Summer Camp kicks off by pinpointing the defining characteristics that distinguish birds from other creatures. Each day, the program delves deeper into this theme, offering a diverse range of activities. From creating birds that showcase their unique adaptations to venturing into the tallgrass prairie habitat, the week is packed with exploration. Participants will engage in activities such as searching for bird nests, studying the various habitats birds inhabit, capturing and comparing the insects that constitute their diets, and even completing a community service project by helping to manage the habitat for the birds. Throughout the week, students will also maintain journals to chronicle their adventures and craft their own narratives from their experiences.  

Shaping these programs to childhood’s natural curiosity will hopefully stay with them as they navigate the world around them. Wherever their path may take them, we hope the impact leads to inquiring minds that begin many new journeys with “What’s that?” 

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