Virginia High School creating Illinois prairie experience

By Ryne Turke on December 6, 2015 at 10:31am

The sight Virginia hopes to see this summer

Students and staff at Virginia High School are providing the community with a chance to experience life on the Illinois Grand Prairie.

Over the past year, Virginia High School teacher Jennie Dodds and her students have been hard at work creating a habitat full of native plants, insects and animals.

Most of the activity can be seen outside the high school and stretches almost a quarter-of-an-acre.

Dodds says a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Schoolyard Habitat program kick-started the project.

“Once you are approved the send $2-thousand to help pay for the costs of getting everything set up.  Once everything is installed they give you an additional $500 for maintenance and upkeep cost.”

Dodds talks about the progress made so far.

“So last fall and spring we grew wildflowers out in the greenhouse and transported them into the garden. We had such a rainy spring that all of our seeds washed away. We just placed another order for more seed. We are going to have a community workshop and the horticulture class will also be putting on a workshop.”

Dodds says the goal of the project is to teach students about the prairie history of Illinois and to collect native seeds for the future.

“We will leave enough seeds in the wildlife so the plants can repopulate themselves. We can grow those seeds in the greenhouse and sell them. That can be a fundraiser for FFA and bringing more awareness to the community about native plants and their impact on native wildlife.”

Dodds says it will take two to three years for the prairie to be at full force.