The Curriculum of the Steiner School - Class 5

Notes and Lesson Plans

Planting a Tallgrass Prairie
updated May 20, 2021

Recorded here is my own personal collection of articles, resources, favorite links, teaching ideas, and lesson plans. It encompasses many years, from the very beginning of my experience studying and learning about Waldorf to the present time. People from all around the world visit my site and recommend it to others. Welcome!

This site records my journey. I hope my honesty is encouraging and helps break down some barriers that may prevent people from trying Waldorf methods. Because this is an ongoing site documenting my curriculum planning and ideas, some materials are more Waldorf-y than others. Please feel free to take what you like and leave the rest.

This page has helpful links and LOADS of free resources to help you plan your fifth grade year. Enjoy!

Mission Statement - Consulting Services - Lending Library

Planting a Tallgrass Prairie
for Class 5/6


There is a lot of content to cover in Botany, so this is can be done as one block or two. If you prefer one block, I would suggest only using my first block's notes (on the Botany page). If you prefer two blocks, you can use the Thomas Elpel materials to go into more detail. This second Botany block can be done in 5th grade or 6th. Please do note that these resources are for teaching Botany in North America.

I decided in the 2020-2021 school year to do two blocks of Botany, each with a focus on hands-on projects. Our first block focused on Herbal Medicines; our second block focused on Planting a Tallgrass Prairie.

My second grade class, who are doing Nature Study as their Science topic, will use this time to help plan and plant the Tallgrass Prairie with their older classmates, and to study Beneficial Insects.

Sample Lessons and Free Curriculum

Prairie Grasses lesson plans from Flint Hills Discovery Center, Manhattan KS

FREE Lesson Plans from Tallgrass Prairie Center
University of Northern Iowa

    Grades 4-5

    Students turn a school hallway into a prairie roadside, while learning about the important services provided by prairie roots.

    Grades 4-6

    With the help of jumps ropes and nerf balls, students explore two ecosystem services provided by prairie roots: nutrient reduction and invasive weed control.

    Grades 4-6

    Students play a variation on the game of Tag to learn how prairie buffers capture runoff in agricultural fields.

    Grades 5-7

    Students learn the similarities between cultural roots and prairie roots. Both provide a foundation for understanding Iowa's rich soil and how it's defined the state's cultural heritage.

    Grades 5-8

    Students become a carbon atom and experience the movements of carbon through the environment, including its time sequestered in prairie roots.

    Grades 5-8

    Using observations in the field, students test and compare the rates at which water infiltrates soil with difference amounts and/or kinds of roots.

    Grades 5-8

    Using root models made of commonly available materials, students explore how the size of roots affects their ability to exchange materials with soil.

    Grades 6-8

    Pairs of students play a battleship-style game to show how roots explore the soil to obtain resources.

    Grades 7-8

    Students use hand lenses to search for, identify and quantify invertebrates in soil samples with and without perennial roots.

    Grades 7-8

    Students learn about ecosystem services provided by prairie roots by matching them to services provided by various components of a school.

Other Helpful Links

  • Seedling ID Guide for Native Prairie Plants Central Region (PDF) - USDA
  • Iowa Living Roadway Trust Fund

      they have a fantastic FREE 7 poster set called "Jewels of the Prairie"
      Mesic Prairie
      Dry Prairie
      Wet Prairie
      Oak Savanna
      Blooming Dates
      Blooming Heights
      Prairie Roots

      they also have a "Pollinator Poster Series"
      Beneficial Insects
      Butterflies & Moths
      Monarchs & Milkweed

      there are other helpful publications as well; nice resources!

      "Out of the Mud: A Tallgrass Revival" Video (2:05:47)

      "Voices of the Prairie" Audio (2:52)

  • IDNR - Educational Resources for Illinois Prairies
      TONS of links! lots of free resources, including

      Illinois Prairie Wildflowers Poster
      Prairie Primer - Activity Book and Poster
      Illinois Prairies Coloring Poster

      Illinois Department of Natural Resources also has traveling trunks (or they did before the coronavirus; I'll have to check now) and there's one for the Prairie. These are available at state parks and public libraries across the state

      Illinois Prairies Binder Contents (PDF)
      love that it includes a trundle wheel!

      they have quite a bit in this bin about the history of the animals and people who have been on this land (ancient mammals, Native Americans, pioneers), so I guess you have to decide if you want to put a little of that in or just keep it purely on the Botany track

      if you do incorporate discussion of Native Americans of the prairie lands, I strongly recommend this AMAZING interactive map (for helping you figure out "whose land are you on?") at

  • USDA Illinois

  • USDA Forest Service

  • National Park Service

    Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve - Kansas
    nice list of Animals at the Preserve organized in the following categories:
    bats, carnivores, deer, rodents, hares and rabbits, marsupials, moles and shrews

  • Tallgrass Prairie Center
    University of Northern Iowa

  • Konza Prairie Biological Station
    Kansas State University

      The Places Between Us, Ep. 2: Konza Prairie with Jill Haukos

      Konza Environmental Education Program FB page

      nice post from May 11, 2020

        Planting native plants for wildlife! You can attract butterflies and hummingbirds to your yard naturally with native plants. Here's a list of plants that are available in some nurseries (you might want to call around before investing time and gas)

        Note: don't ever collect these plants in the wild - purchase them from a nursery:

        Butterfly milkweed - aptly named - the butterflies love it!

        Common milkweed - the host plant for Monarch butterfly caterpillars

        Dakota verbena

        Rose verbena

        Cobaea penstemon

        Shell-leaf beardtongue (also a penstemon)

        Purple coneflower

        Black-eyed Susan


        Asters - lots of different types

        Prepare the soil with a good mix of native soil, sand and compost and then plant. Then simply wait for the butterflies and hummingbirds to arrive!

  • University of Minnesota Extension

  • Ecological Landscape Alliance

  • General John A. Logan Museum

      I can always go look at the native prairie plants garden, nearby at the General John A. Logan Museum in Murphysboro IL, and they have handouts there about prairie plants

  • Books to Buy

    These are two books from the IDNR bin that I would like to buy:

    The Prairie Builders: Reconstructing America's Lost Grasslands

    by Sneed B. Collard III

    A Walk in the Prairie

    by Rebecca Johnson

    In truth, tallgrass prairie isn't quite the native biome for where we are located here in Southern Illinois. I found that out when a Botany special guest came to our homeschool co-op. If you look at a biome map, Illinois is where the temperate forest and the grasslands meet.

    In fact, I just noticed when writing this that on the North America Biome Puzzle, Waseca Biomes has Illinois as forest but on the North America Stencil, they switched us to grasslands. Interesting!

    North of us, where the glaciers scraped the land flat, it was prairie but here in the south where the glaciers didn't come (they stopped just a few miles from our town) it was forest. The kids got really curious about tallgrass prairie when we studied Local History & Geography in grade 4, and since it was the last biome in the U.S. to form and the first to be destroyed, we wanted to bring some back.

    Now that we know it was actually forest in this place, the plan is turn part of my yard into a food forest and part into prairie. Even if this land wasn't ALL prairie here, we can still do a little something. Having space dedicated to plants that are being eradicated is helpful to wildlife.

    Waseca Biomes - Grasslands of North America three part cards

    At this point, this block is still in the planning stages and I'm looking for a place to put all of my ideas. If you have a wonderful resource or suggestion for this project, email Renee!

    List of Possible Stories

    Blogs posts from teaching this topic in the 2020-2021 school year:

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