|“I hope by the time I grow up the whole prairie will be restored back to its old healthy ways again.”|
Children from more than 20 school districts have learned firsthand about the environment in field trips to Austin College’s Sneed Prairie. In October 2016, the program marked a huge milestone: a visit by the group including the 10,000th child to participate since the field trip program began in summer 2002. The mostly fourth- and fifth-grade students and teachers visit the College’s 100-acre Clinton and Edith Sneed Environmental Research Area, donated to the College in 1984 by the Sneeds. Children, guided by Austin College students, trek across the prairie as they engage in experiments and activities that teach the significance of the endangered Texas blackland prairie ecosystem. Teachers receive preparation materials and follow-up activities designed by Austin College alumni in alignment with Texas curriculum requirements.
A number of grants have supported the field trips since 2004, with funding currently from the Priddy Community Foundation. This month, Austin College students are enrolled in a hands-on Prairie Restoration course, taught by Dr. Peter Schulze, director of the College’s Center for Environmental Studies and professor of biology and environmental science. Students apply a combination of restoration techniques to a variety of experimental plots.