The Deer Park Prairie Education Program
What is Deer Park Prairie?
Our Education Program centers around Lawther-Deer Park Prairie, a 51-acre, never-plowed, native prairie remnant that is an exceptional example of one of the most endangered ecosystems in North America. Less than 1%of the original 9 million acres of coastal prairie remains. Very few of these prairies can be found within an urban area. Read more about Deer Park Prairie.
NPAT provides opportunities to Deer Park and communities throughout the Houston area to appreciate native coastal prairies and wetlands. The Deer Park Prairie Education Program operates in an urban setting and teaches science and math through hands-on interactive learning. Education and awareness are key to the conservation of our Texas native prairies.
We are excited to return to field trips at Lawther-Deer Park Prairie and prairie education sessions at Houston metro area schools! Thanks to our donors and sponsors for making this important learning experience available to inspire the next generation of Texas conservationists and save more Texas prairie.
Education Director Della Barbato has created a series of videos (see below) to keep students and adults connected to the prairie and nature.
STUDENT PRAIRIE PROGRAMS offer interactive classroom and on-site learning on the history of our coastal prairie, the story of Lawther-Deer Park Prairie, the ecology of prairies, their relationship to flood mitigation and water quality; and the importance of preserving our native wildlife and pollinators.
- The Prairie Learning Trunk (pressed prairie plants and synthetic animal skulls and pelts) ,
- Enviroscape (3-D model depicting benefits of a prairie), and technology such as iNaturalist and Google Earth are utilized.
- TEKS-correlated lessons teach objectives such as animal adaptations, insect life cycles, the flow of energy, the prairie food web, and applications to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
- A Prairie Art Contest is facilitated for students in grades 6 to 12.
CREATE A POCKET PRAIRIE at your school or organization. How? It’s easy, just pick a spot, prepare the land and plant your favorite grasses and native wildflowers. No Pocket Prairie is too small!
With the help of Reliant Energy, this year we completed our first fully designed and installed pocket prairie at Parker Elementary in Houston! Planning started in February, construction in April, and additional prairie planting took place in September. Second through fifth grade students, teachers, and parents have participated. They can’t wait to watch it grow! We also consult with The Rice School, Tanglewood MS, and Carver Elementary to support the pocket prairies on their campuses.
Native prairies are more economical than lawns, using less fertilizer and water. The deep roots, which can grow 9 to 15 feet deep, act like sponges and absorb 14 times more water than typical lawns in a heavy rain event. Prairies also improve water quality as the roots filter the water. The aesthetic and health qualities of prairies are also valuable. Just imagine how much folks would enjoy Indian Paintbrush and Texas Coneflower at their location. Pocket prairies also serve as a valuable food source for our native pollinators, especially in the urban nectar deserts filled with lawn grass. Join the discussion at Pocket Prairie Teachers on Facebook.
TEACHER WORKSHOPS: Full-day Teacher Prairie Workshops, both on-site and at school campuses teach TEKS-correlated lessons through hands-on experience. Prairie 101 focuses on the Prairie Learning Trunk and offers an interdisciplinary approach for students to learn about prairies and the history of the coastal prairies in this area. Prairie 201 teaches prairie ecology, hydrology, history, and how to create a pocket prairie. Della hosted several workshops this fall. More to come in 2023. Find out more about them HERE.
PRAIRIE FIELD TRIPS: There is no substitute for getting out on the prairie. Prairie field trips are offered at Lawther-Deer Park Prairie with TEKS-correlated lessons. Outdoor activities include a guided tour of the prairie, bird watching, seed collection, seed ball creation, and an insect sweep using a net. Deer Park Prairie is an Open Outdoors for Kids (OOK) destination site, so bus transportation reimbursement is offered to fourth graders enrolled in a Title 1 School. Field trips are also offered to Katy Prairie, MD Anderson, Rice University, Hermann Park’s Whistlestop Prairie, and other Houston area pocket prairies. We also encourage groups like Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and other youth service groups to volunteer at Lawther-Deer Park Prairie and develop these service projects into learning opportunities.
GIRLS ON THE PRAIRIE: A one-week Summer Camp for girls of minority backgrounds was hosted this summer with our partners at UHCL’s Environmental Institute of Houston. Ten high school-aged girls attended camp from four school districts, including Deer Park ISD, Dickinson ISD, Clear Creek ISD, and Houston ISD. Activities were held at Deer Park Prairie and other sites around Houston. Lessons were STEM oriented. One day was designated as Career Day. Six women in the science field came to the camp to share their individual career paths with the girls. The camp was a big hit and student understanding of prairie ecology and ecosystem benefits rose dramatically.
- We’ve created the Costal Prairie Education video series to get you closer to this coastal prairie. You can see the prairie virtually with these videos, study the plants and insects, and even make some art!
- NPAT has taken prairie education statewide with our “Teaching the Teachers” program. Find out more!
- To register for a teacher workshop or to find out more about how to support this education program, contact Della Barbato.
Thank you to our sponsors!
We are grateful for our sponsors. Your individual gift is also essential to making prairie education and nature accessible and inspiring to the young and not-as-young!