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Students gather grass seed

Field trips arenít uncommon for students in Dr. Matt Stutzís environmental studies classes. But this fall Stutz decided to take his introductory environmental studies class to Broken Kettle Prairie.

Students in the class study biblical principles of stewardship and spend considerable time understanding how ecosystems function. Since prairies are important ecosystems in the Midwest, Stutz decided it would be beneficial for them to spend some time in the prairie and put into practice principles of service and stewardship.

Each student was given a small paper bag to collect seed from native prairie grasses. An hour later all bags were filled, and enough Big Blue Stem, Indian Grass, Canada Rye, and Scotch Grass seed was collected to restore one more acre of native prairie.

Broken Kettle Prairie is the largest intact native prairie in the state of Iowa. Portions of it have never been tilled, only grazed. Other sections have been cropped and will be restored as much as possible to the state they were in when natural weather and prairie fire cycles defined them. Broken Kettle is maintained by the Nature Conservancy, an organization whose stated mission is ďto preserve the plants, animals, and natural communities that represent the diversity of life on Earth by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive.Ē

Students leisurely strolled through the prairie, grabbing seed heads at hand height. They also were asked to respond to a set of questions that helped them observe more deliberately the ecosystem they were visiting.

It was a worthwhile trip for students from Stutzís point of view. And it was certainly a service to the Nature Conservancy, which depends on volunteers to do its work. Fifty people working one hour that day gathered only enough seed to restore one acre of prairie. The Nature Conservancy welcomes the help they get, and the public benefits by being able to explore, study, and enjoy native Iowa prairie ecosystems.