Hi Teachers!

Did you know that the prairie and savanna once covered 222 million acres of land across Central Canada and the USA? This was an area almost equal to the total land mass of Ontario. And today, with less than one percent of this grassland habitat remaining, it is one of the world’s most endangered ecosystems.

The land was covered with tall grass prairies and oak savanna, dominated by Black and White Oak. Grasses like Big Bluestem, Indian Grass and Switchgrass grew more than two metres high and a diverse range of wildflowers blossomed.

click any photo for larger versions
photo right by Elisabeth La Fontaine

In Northumberland County, the Rice Lake Plains is an area of approximately 100,000 acres of land located at the eastern end of the Oak Ridges Moraine, southeast of Peterborough.


The prairies have become fragmented and the partners of the Rice Lake Plains Joint Initiative are working together to try to restore some of this precious ecosystem.


Map of area - right

In addition, one of our objectives is to work with the schools in the area to create an awareness of the importance of the Rice Lake Plains, habitat for many species which, without it, are at risk.

The Eastern Hog-nosed Snake (photo right), Milksnake and Eastern Ribbonsnake are all species at risk.

Photo by Todd Farrell

The Red-headed Woodpecker is very rare and we encourage you to report any sightings.


Photo by Bill Hubick

The Monarch Butterfly is vulnerable due to migration and loss of habitat on its wintering grounds in Mexico.


Monarch caterpillar - photo by Elisabeth La Fontaine

Monarch butterfly - photo by Ken Towle

Other birds, plants and trees which are Species at Risk (SAR) can be found by pressing this link.

The Alderville First Nations Black Oak Savanna Ecology Centre is now open and home to many of the workshops and events held to promote the importance of this fragile ecosystem. The following programs are available at the Alderville Black Oak Savanna Ecology Centre or in your own classroom.    

  • Butterfly Bonanza: Immerse yourself in the life cycle of a butterfly through a creative movement sequence and a special craft. Enjoy a puppet show and explore the significance as the butterfly as a symbol in indigenous cultures.  Learn butterfly anatomy and look at migration patterns.  Help to facilitate the comeback of our extirpated friend, the Karner Blue Butterfly by examining the specific habitat requirements and taking action hands-on.  For K-6 students, 2- 3 hours in duration.
  • Biodiversity on the Plains:   Learn about the enormous diversity of plants, mammals, insects, birds, and herptiles in prairie and savanna habitats.  Explore the interrelationships of predators and prey through an outdoor action game, use all your senses on an interpretive hike and at a very special ‘Magic Spot’ and play a rousing game of Biodiversity Bingo!  For grade 4-6 students, 2-3 hours in duration.
  • Fire Ecology:  Ever wondered how fire alters the natural succession of an ecosystem?  Why are prairie plants dependent on fire?  How does the soil change after a fire?  What special adaptations have plants and animals evolved to withstand fire?  An exciting program exploring the cultural and ecological significance of fire in prairie and savanna restoration.  We will use traditional fire-making methods to ignite curiosity and our flame as we journey together into the spirit of the fire.  For Grade 7-12 students, 2.5 hours in duration.

Coming soon:  Insects of prairie and savanna habitats!

College and University classes (specifically those from environmental studies and science, resource management, biology, geography, and Native studies) are also welcome.  Talk to us about your specific requirements.

A curriculum-linked integrated Environmental Studies Program, Project Prairie, is being developed to be distributed to teachers on the Rice Lake Plains in Fall 2011.  The program is divided into 5 sections: Biodiversity, Fire Ecology, Mapping, Species at Risk, and Stewardship. 

Additional resources available for teachers include maps, videos, colouring books, posters, pamphlets, magnets, and bookmarks

Please contact Kristina for more information.

“Things to do” at Lower Trent Conservation:

Goodrich-Loomis Nature Camp

Goodrich-Loomis Conservation Area (north of Brighton off County Road 30)

Although the nature camp no longer runs, Lower Trent Conservation continues to offer exceptional environmental education programs such as the Quinte Children's Water Festival, Caring for our Watersheds, and more.

The Centre, located deep in the heart of the 11,000 acre Ganaraska Forest, provides many programs for children. They range from half-day visits to overnight stays. There are more than 25 different environmental educational programs to suit all grades and subjects. For more information please contact the Ganaraska Forest Centre direct.

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