In 2015, the Plains Conservation Center engaged more than 10,000 students in its mission of educating as many people as possible about the endangered grasslands here and throughout the world. In 2016, that number should expand as the Denver Botanic Gardens collaborates with the PCC in a partnership with both organizations' education programs. It's a natural combination since both are focused on plant science and understanding ecosystems. Both are SCFD funded.
One third of the earth's surface is grasslands, according to the PCC's website — and 70 percent of that area is degraded. North America alone has lost 80 percent of its grasslands. This leads to climate change, floods, famine and poverty worldwide. The next generation will inherit this situation and needs to understand it.
All programs will be held at the PCC's 1,000-acre Aurora campus and will begin with class registration on Jan. 15.
The new partnership will not alter the present program offerings. Included:
• Prairie Perspectives: Grades 3-5. An overnight program in which children adopt the persona of an 1800s-era Cheyenne Indian and of a homesteader as they learn about the prairie ecosystem.
• Day Tours: Grades 1-6. Provides students with one or a combination of three programs on grassland ecology, Cheyenne Indian skills and sod homesteading.
• Preschool and Kindergarten Tours: Younger learners have hands-on experiences to stimulate curiosity and a love of the natural world.
• Ecological Monitoring: Grades 6-8. Students engage in real field science, ranging from bird surveys to prairie dog ethnography.
The programs allow kids to learn about 19 century settlers, sod houses and more. They can go on nature walks and learn about bird watching. There are also Cheyenne teepees with 1830s artifacts.
The center hosts a farm-to-table dinner each season and offers free admission to those who want to walk through on their own. There are fees for the education programs.
The Plains Conservation Center is also working with an additional 7,900 acres farther east, south of Strasburg on West Bijou Creek. There is a pronghorn herd there and a place to study about the extinction of dinosaurs. (Can only be accessed with a guide.)
The website offers a good deal of interesting reading about how holistic range management, proper use of grazing animals, can renew the soil, countering global warming.
“Find your roots in the grasslands” is the PCC invitation to all.
If you go:
The Plain Conservation Center is located at 21901 E. Hampden Ave., Aurora. plainscenter.org, 303-693-3621.