Photos by Tyson Ostroski
When exploring the east side of BVN, students may notice that a young prairie has taken root. Biology teachers Chris Ollig and Daniel Smalley spent this past year cultivating the native Kansas habitat with the help of a team of students.
Senior Hannah Rock, who participated in the designed and implementing the prairie last year, described the dynamic of the groups working on the prairie.
“We are all student driven,” Rock said. “Mr. Ollig and Mr. Smalley do help out, but it’s mostly just us working.”
This coordinated effort primarily done by students in environmental science club, but there was some help from biology students along the way. The students were divided into three different groups: a seed group, a trail group and a social group.
“They’ve really been the ones spearheading the whole thing, […] and so that’s what we want, to be student designed, student created; it creates a lot more ownership,” Ollig said.
Ollig acknowledges that this was only the building year to help lay the foundation for a long term project at BVN.
“Right now we are starting into year two,” Ollig said. “Last year we spent the year designing the prairie, getting it all laid out, getting the plan in place, getting some funding, and then we killed off all the mowed grass that was there and planted some rye grass and coreopsis flowers.”
Over the summer these plants and flowers grew and bloomed to full capacity, covering the area between the tennis courts and the school building.
Despite all this progress, the project is far from over. The prairie is set to have another major change this fall. Students will kill off all the plants a second time in order to make room for the native Kansas flowers and grass they hope will exist for the long term.
“Next spring will be when we first start to see the plants that we want there, so that will be the real test,” Ollig said. “There are still gonna be some weedy plants in there.”
For Ollig and the rest of the prairie staff, the main goal will be to increase information and awareness of the prairie’s existence. Hopes remain high for the future of the prairie project, as a motivated group of seniors are returning to be leaders for the next generation of prairie students. The success of the project will create a blueprint for the future of science project-based learning.