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  For Students:
Quick Facts Scavenger Hunt A Prairie Problem
Build A Prairie Who Was Albert Lea? History Detective
Mystery Photo Albert's Great Adventure

A Prairie Problem



"Iowa is the most 'altered' state in the nation. To a greater degree than in any other state, the natural landscape no longer exists. The forests have been felled, the prairies plowed, the streams straightened and scoured and reduced to ditches, the wetlands drained and filled and their wildlife forced out. Some alteration had to happen; the soils of Iowa are simply too rich to leave in prairie when there's a world to feed."

From: Des Moines Register Editorial 8-30-98

The Question

A major housing developer is requesting permission from the Zoning Commission to build a new subdivision in one of the few remaining prairie areas of the state.

Click to see the bee!The Zoning Commission has requested information on prairies and the impact new subdivisions would have on the prairie ecosystem. The Commission has requested that a group of community experts research the issue and prepare a presentation to assist in making a decision.

Questions to Consider

  • Why should people be concerned about housing subdivisions using prairie land?

  • How can we find ways to meet our housing expansion needs without compromising the prairies' ecosystem?

  • What happened to the original prairies?

  • How will housing construction affect wildlife habitats?

Background Information

Review the following websites and background information on the preservation of natural prairie lands as well as restoration efforts and techniques.

Quick Facts

Preserving Tallgrass Prairie Remnants

Conservation Section - Native Prairie Management Guide

Take a virtual tour of a new smart growth neighborhood. (requires Flash-enabled browser.)

Urban Sprawl – The Big Picture
Earth-orbiting satellites have a wonderful view of our planet's fast-growing cities, but most city planners don't have access to this "big picture" from space. NASA-supported scientists are working to change that.

Individual Roles

Folder iconEnvironmental Attorney

Folder iconUniversity Biologist

Folder iconCounty Extension Director

Folder iconArboretum Director

Folder iconHousing Developer

What to Do

Read the directions to help you understand how your team will research and analyze information.

How to Begin

Review the checklist of project activities.

Peer Review

Evaluate your peers' projects on how well their conclusions are supported by data and facts.
Was their argument convincing? What made you think so?


Click to see the Western Prairie Fringed Orchid!The Prairie Problem is a real problem in the Loess Hills of Western Iowa.

If you were on the Zoning Commission, how would you vote? Why?


Your project evaluation will assess how you support your conclusion, the effectiveness of your selected method of sharing information, teamwork and collaboration with your peers.

How you'll be graded


  For Students:
Quick Facts Scavenger Hunt A Prairie Problem
Build A Prairie Who Was Albert Lea? History Detective
Mystery Photo Albert's Great Adventure
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