4th Graders on the Prairie

Volunteer Opportunities: 4th Graders on the Prairie 
A District 220 and CFC Collaboration
September 13 to 27, 2021

Dear Prairie Friends: 

HOORAY!  Back to 4th Graders on the Prairie!  This program is an award-winning collaboration between Barrington District 220 and Citizens for Conservation.  All eight elementary schools will participate, and many volunteers are needed.  We hope you will consider volunteering in the prairie sometime from September 13 to 27!  This is a wonderful opportunity to share the value of CFC’s work with future stewards.

The 2020 program was limited to Barrington High School production of two short CFC videos which were shared with all fourth-grade classes.  Each classroom also participated in a live Zoom presentation followed by a question-and-answer session.  Additionally, a voluntary prairie immersion held after school accommodated a small number of students and their parents.  Here are the links to the videos if you are interested in watching them (As Kevin commented, “Neither of us will be giving up our day jobs for an acting career.”):


Volunteers are needed for the in-class orientation sessions as well as activities which take place during the prairie visits.  Chaperones are provided by the school district.  Local prairies visited include Citizens for Conservation’s Flint Creek Savanna (across from Good Shepherd Hospital) and Spring Creek Galloping Hill (off Penny Road west of 59).

We make it easy by offering a training session for all volunteers.  Training will be Thursday, September 2, at 1:00 p.m. at the CFC farmhouse across Highway 22 from Good Shepherd Hospital.  It is highly recommended, especially for new volunteers.

Activities for which you may volunteer:

In-class orientation sessions will be provided to each fourth-grade classroom in the district beginning September 1.  Presenters are given a suggested outline for the presentation which is about 30 to 40 minutes in length as well as a flash drive with slides which can be projected on Smart Boards.  The volunteer presenter discusses what a prairie is, why prairies are important, examples of the structure and function of prairie plants, and guidelines for the field study activities.   

Prairie field studies will take place September 13 through 27.  The three activities during prairie visits (Seed Collecting, Measuring and Drawing, and Discovery Walks) require a two-hour time commitment: either 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. or 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. (or, even better, both sessions)Let me know if you are interested in helping during a particular school’s visit.

Seed Collecting is a quiet activity in which students and chaperones are given bags and instructed to clean an area of a particular seed.  Students remain with their chaperone and listen for the sounds of the prairie while observing their surroundings.  Students learn to differentiate among different prairie plants and are expected to walk gently among the forbs and grasses.

Measuring and Drawing:  Each student is required to choose any plant to draw.  They have hand lenses for a close-up view, colored pencils, and papers they bring from school.  Volunteers help identify plants they have chosen.  Each group records heights of three samples of three different plant species.  Chaperones use the carpenter rulers as students record the information on papers they bring from school.  Data collected is shared and compared from year to year.  Structure and function of prairie plants will be highlighted.

Discovery Walks:  Students are encouraged to find and identify forbs and grasses as well as insects, birds, or other wildlife.  Students use all their senses to experience the prairie while staying on established trails.  Students will understand structure and function of prairie plants as detailed on the attached file.

Please let us know which dates, times, activity, and/or school preferences you may have so we can assemble a grid of volunteers no later than September 2.  Remember CFC volunteers are responsible for activities, while school chaperones and teachers are responsible for the students.

Volunteer as often as you would like–you can’t over-volunteer in this program!  Also, feel free to forward this email to any who may be interested.

When you reply by email, please also provide the best phone number to reach you in case the weather causes changes once the schedule is set.

Questions?  [email protected]


Edith Auchter