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Making connections to the prairie landscape through community field trips.
MOTTL, LARISSA*,1, ANDELSON, JONATHAN1, 1 Grinnell College Center for Prairie Studies, Grinnell, IA
ABSTRACT- The Center for Prairie Studies is a new interdisciplinary program dedicated to increasing the awareness, appreciation, and understanding of all aspects of the North American Prairie with both on and off-campus constituencies. The Center reached out last year to the local community through a series of four summer field trips. Staff and several local experts led trips to (1) local prairies to focus on prairie history, ecology and restoration, (2) prairie plantings in Grinnell to showcase the use of native plants in urban landscapes, (3) private acreages to demonstrate how prairie can be reconstructed with cost-share assistance, and (4) a local roadside remnant to foster grassroots support for county participation in a roadside vegetation management program. The trips were advertised in a variety of ways, and participation was open to the public at no charge but with advance registration. Transportation and refreshments were provided. We evaluated the success of the program in increasing awareness by overall attendance, repeat attendance, and the diversity of backgrounds of participants. The field trips attracted over 70 participants, ranging in age from 20 to 90, with nearly 30% attending more than one trip, a 2:5 ratio of college employees, spouses or students to community members, and an overall 1:1 gender ratio. Local newspaper announcements and campus mailings were most successful in encouraging participation, but attendance was also boosted by posters, brochures, notices on email listserves, the program website, a local cable access channel, and networking through local gardeners. To reach an even wider audience, the trips were videotaped by the local cable access channel and aired several times over the following days. Raising awareness about prairie in a leading corn belt state is no small task, but we are encouraged by the ripples we are creating through the fields in rural Iowa.
KEY WORDS: prairie, community outreach, field trips