LA CROSSE, Wis. - This usually very quiet and peaceful grassland just outside of Holmen was transformed into an outdoor classroom.
You could hear one student yell, "Sydney, look at all these seeds!"
These 7th graders from Lincoln Middle School got to see first hand what it means to collect seeds to preserve this 310 acres of native grasses and birds.
Stephanie Hanna is the Education Manager with WisCorps and pointed out to students what was ready to be picked, "This is a goldenrod and some of them have gone to seed already and some of them have not".
This grassland is considered a unique river terrace that was created during the last ice age.
Even though these kids are just 12-years-old, they still seem to appreciate what's there.
Lincoln Middle School Seventh Grader Ella Lysne had this to say about a prickly milkweed pod full of feathery seeds, "Woah, that's really cool"!
And as the students hiked through several acres, running their hands up stalks of grasses to gather seeds, it gave them a chance to explore, exercise and ask lots of questions.
Ella asked, "Why exactly do you burn a prairie"?
"Because then what happens is that it helps if there are any invasive species in the prairie that shouldn't be here. Their not adapted to fire so they will hopefully be killed by that, said Hanna.
And you couldn't help but notice that out on the prairie you could hear lots of laughter. But no traffic noise or cellphones ringing, something that didn't go unnoticed by these 7th graders.
"I think its definitely cool that they make sure this area is undeveloped. I mean downtown La Crosse has been under construction year after year after year. It's so important to keep these spaces alive so that more people in future generations can keep coming here", said Ella.
These students were having so much fun taking their studies outside they didn't seem to realize the important work they were doing.
Hanna explained, "And then what they do, they'll scatter the seed maybe not necessarily on this prairie but on another very similar prairie close to this area".
Ella admitted, "I didn't realize collecting these seeds was so important to the survival of this prairie."
The Mississippi Valley Conservancy and WisCorps work together to teach kids outdoors and the La Crosse Community Foundation provided the funding for this Acorns to Oaks program.
This 310 acres was donated 10 years ago ... with 35 acres open to the public year round. The other acreage is closed May, June and July so rare grassland bird species aren't disturbed during their nesting period.
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