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Prairie Walk will explore restored area behind Free State High School

Thursday, August 27, 2015

LAWRENCE — The Grassland Heritage Foundation is offering a tour to educate the public on how Free State High School and University of Kansas instructors turned an unused football practice field into a prairie restoration site. 

The event will take place from 9 a.m.-10:30 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 29, at 4700 Overland Drive.

The Free State Prairie project is led by Julie Schwarting, Free State biology and environmental science instructor, and Helen Alexander, KU ecology and evolutionary biology professor. Starting in 2013, participants from KU, Free State and the larger Lawrence community collaborated on two restoration projects on high school campus. The goal was to create natural areas that are easily accessible to K-12 student  and to provide opportunities for students from both KU and Lawrence schools to learn about the natural heritage of Kansas, be involved in hands-on ecological research and help educate the public. It is a unique project as few high schools in the nation host similar natural areas providing such a resource for learning and research.

The tour will give the public an opportunity to see the developing prairie and learn about the project’s history and the research occurring there.  During the tour, Schwarting and Alexander will discuss the project's history, research projects, goals and current activities.  Frank Norman, GHF Snyder Prairie Preserve Manager, will then lead a plant walk through the restoration area.

To reach the site, park on the west side of the high school. Walk through the gates to the athletic fields and follow the sidewalk around the back of the football stadium. When the sidewalk ends, head west across the grass, and the prairie sites will be obvious after a short walk.

This project received financial support from the Elizabeth Schultz Environmental Fund.