Outdoor Lesson: Illinois Prairies

Let's learn about Prairies

The Illinois Prairie contains some of the most diverse wildlife and plant species- but how did it get there? We will learn about where our prairies came from and why they are important.

There are four tasks in this lesson. Complete tasks 1-3 in order, and task 4 is a short quiz to test your knowledge.

Task 1 — Read about how prairies in Illinois were formed:

A prairie is a type of grassland. Its name comes from the French word for "meadow." Prairies usually form on level or smoothly rolling lands. These areas have a winter season that kill the plants. Most North American prairies are in locations with a low amount of annual rainfall. However, the prairies in Illinois receive enough rainfall to support trees.

Most of the land in the northern two-thirds of Illinois is flat, which makes it perfect for prairie life. However, our land wasn't always like that. About 12,000 years ago, four major glaciers covered parts of Illinois. Glaciers are large masses of ice that are so heavy they flow like rivers. The movement of glaciers is what shaped the land on the prairies in Illinois.

In 1820, Illinois had 22 million acres of prairie land and 14 million acres of forests. By 1900, most of Illinois' prairies were gone. The majority of these lands were converted to farmland. By 1978, less than 2,300 acres of high quality prairie remained in the entire state. Most of the undisturbed prairie sites today are found in places that are not fit for farming, like near railroads or cemeteries.

Task 2 — Discover prairie plants and animals:

Watch the YouTube video below (with parent or guardian permission) about prairie ecosystems:

Task 3 — Write about it:

Imagine that you are an explorer in 1820 and you are traveling across the United States. You've just entered the Illinois Prairie ecosystem. Write about your experience. Be sure to include:
What animals do you see?
What plants do you see?
What do you hear?
What is the weather like?

Task 4 — Test your knowledge:

Click below to test your Illinois Prairie knowledge!

Click here.


https://www.isbe.net/Documents/K-12-SS-Standards.pdf https://www2.illinois.gov/dnr/education/Pages/ILPrairies.aspx https://champaign.org/prairie-animals

Post originally published March 17, 2020 by Katie Simpson