What Do 55 High School Students and…

What Do 55 High School Students and 800 Native Plants Have in Common?

By Linda Lucchesi Cody

When Dave Seis, biology teacher at Barron Area Senior High School, in Barron, Wisconsin, was assigned the students in Advanced Biology he knew exactly how to get them excited. Four years previously, Dave had taken a three-week program with Earth Partnership for Schools, in which he learned from start to finish how to conduct a prairie restoration. Now he planned to involve his 55 students in every aspect of the same kind of restoration project on their school grounds.

Dave thought of everything: careful planning, study of the land-use history, site characteristics, site mapping, soil quality, and plant and animal inventories. And that was just the beginning. His students were busy learning about prairie ecosystems and all that goes into a restoration project. Dave, inspired and well-prepared by his summer class, did what every good teacher knows to do. He gave his students the vision, the inspiration, and the resources to make it happen. The 55 junior and senior biology students did the rest.

Student planting.

Students visited two prairie sites – one a native prairie and the other a prairie restoration. Using numerous native plant references, and cross-referencing plant choices with their specific site characteristics, the students chose all of the grasses and forbs to be planted.

Students planting.
Dave sought help when it was needed. He worked with Dragonfly Gardens, a nursery in Amery, Wisconsin, which provided valuable suggestions for site preparation. He contacted the school’s grounds manager regarding future site plans. He involved the agriculture teacher at Barron High, who provided equipment and now plans to partner with Dave in the future. And he asked the Lorrie Otto Seeds for Education Fund to provide funds to purchase 800 plants.*

The group.
In the spring of 2004, all 800 grasses and forbs were in the ground, planted by all the advanced biology class, including the eight members of the baseball team, who volunteered to plant a few hundred plants during their free time.

And how is the project today? Dave is full of new ideas and hope for the future. Has it been easy? Not by a long shot, but with Dave’s vision the project continues to grow and flourish. What’s next? Dave has plans: plans for a prairie newsletter and articles in the local newspaper to involve the community, high school students teaching the elementary students about the prairie, expanding the planting site, and working out the kinks of monitoring the original prairie.

How to get high school students excited about nature? Ask Dave Seis. Is there a community out there working to restore the land? You’ve just read about one great example. Have the Wild Ones planted a seed for the future of the Earth? You betcha!

*Dave and his students received a 2004 Lorrie Otto Seeds for Education grant in the amount of $400.

Get more information on the Earth Partnership for Schools Program, or contact Project Manager Libby McCann at epmccann@wisc.edu.


Linda Lucchesi Cody, of the Ann Arbor (MI) Chapter, serves on the national Seeds for Eduation committee, and is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects.

This article appeared in the March/April 2005 issue of the Wild Ones Journal.