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Prairie Garden of Troubles


Bruno Borsari
Biology Department
Winona State University


This "clicker case" was developed for a general biology course for non-majors. It focuses on prairie habitat ecology and restoration. Jim, a young ecologist, has created a reconstructed prairie in his backyard. His neighbors don't like it and they have complained to the local building inspector. The city weed ordinance is very clear about vegetation management, and Jim has been told that he must mow his plants and keep a tidy lawn like everyone else in the neighborhood. But he feels strongly that his efforts to create a more sustainable form of landscape in the Midwest town in which he lives are being misunderstood. Eventually, Jim will have to defend his case in court. The case is presented in class as a series of PowerPoint slides (~10MB) with multiple-choice questions that students answer using personal response systems (“clickers”) although it could be adapted for use without these technologies.

  • Learn the basic ecological characteristics of a prairie ecosystem, including prairie ecological services (soil humus formation, water conservation, pollination, biodiversity).
  • Develop an appreciation for prairie habitat restoration and conservation.
  • Study plant biodiversity.
  • Be introduced to concepts of co-evolution and symbiosis among plant species and pollinators.
Keywords: Prairie ecosystem; grassland; grasses, wildflowers; perennials; habitat restoration; habitat conservation; landscape design; sustainable landscaping; biodiversity; Midwest
Topical Area: N/A
Educational Level: Undergraduate lower division
Formats: PDF, PowerPoint
Type/Method: Clicker, Interrupted, Role-Play
Language: English
Subject Headings: Biology (General)   Ecology   Botany / Plant Science   Agriculture   Natural Resource Management  
Date Posted: 2/11/2011
Date Modified: N/A
Copyright: Copyright held by the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Please see our usage guidelines, which outline our policy concerning permissible reproduction of this work.

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Nice study. This encompasses many of the concepts in my AP Environmental Science course and I see this opening up discussion on many of the concepts we discussed throughout the year. I am going to use this in my unit on politics and economics. Thank you.

Diane Herr
Waterford High School
Waterford, CT

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