The “On the Prairie” distance learning site, created by the University of Minnesota, explores the plants, animals, and ecology of this unique ecosystem through several interactive activities. The Bell LIVE! Page features a group of Minnesota school children that took at trip to the prairie and documented their lessons with a digital camera. The photos on the site feature these students learning why the prairies are so important, and what humans can do to help save this vanishing ecosystem. The Build-a-Prairie page asks students, “Can you turn this barren plain into a healthy prairie?” and guides them in how to choose the best indigenous plants and animals to bring to their prairie restoration site, making sure to avoid dangerous or exotic species. The resulting ecosystem then comes to life before the student’s eyes through animation. What’s a Prickly Pear cactus look like? How about a Meadow Vole? What is a Killdeer, or a Plains Spadefoot? The Field Guide to the Prairie gives descriptions of more than 60 species indigenous to the prairies. QuickTime movies and virtual reality allow site users to experience what it’s like to be on the prairie, and biologists demonstrate their most recent findings about this endangered but critical ecosystem.
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