Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge Students

The curriculum of Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge uses the restored and reconstructed tallgrass prairie ecosystem as an integrating and motivating context to engage school children at all grade levels in real world, field-based learning experiences.  Please see our Refuge Plants page for more information. Project Bluestem is the primary curriculum used at Neal Smith NWR.

Original Project Bluestem Curriculum

Written in 1995, Project Bluestem Curriculum is Neal Smith NWR’s founding environmental education curriculum. Project Bluestem has a wide variety of topics for nearly every grade level and helps students become intimately acquainted with tallgrass prairies, oak savannas and Neal Smith NWR. The pertinence of Project Bluestem persists today and Refuge staff strongly encourages its use as a valuable environmental education resource. Yet, in the written introduction of Project Bluestem, curriculum developers declared that Project Bluestem was an unfinished and dynamic document that should be “constantly changing, improving and growing”. Neal Smith NWR recognizes the importance of these commands and has worked to uphold them by reviewing and revising the curriculum.

Revised Project Bluestem

Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge Students

In order for Project Bluestem to best reflect the most current philosophies and methodologies of environmental education, Neal Smith NWR is currently in the process of adapting its lessons. The goals of the revised lessons are studying and becoming a naturalist; using nature journals; tracking phenology; and searching for wonder. In the revised lessons, the interest and questions of learners ultimately drive lesson objectives. Students are put in charge of constructing their own learning and field leaders serve as facilitators (not lecturers) in helping learners make independent, personal and consequently meaningful discoveries about the environment.

This is the curriculum by grade for the revised Project Bluestem

P.O. Box 399
9981 Pacific St.
Prairie City, IA 50228
Get Directions
The refuge roads and trails are open daily from dawn to dusk.

The Prairie Learning and Visitor Center is open year-round.
Regular Hours:
Sunday-Saturday from 9am-4pm

Winter hours:
December 1-February 28
Monday-Saturday from 9am-4pm; closed Sunday.

We are open on Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Labor Day; we are closed on all other Federal holidays.