INFORMATION FOR TEACHERS
Sneed Prairie Field Trip Program
for 3rd–5th Grades
Sneed Prairie TEKS-aligned field trips teach children about ecosystem restoration through hands-on activities, data collection, and experiments. Grants enable us to reimburse field trip transportation costs.
The Austin College Center for Environmental Studies offers TEKS-aligned field trips to its Clinton and Edith Sneed Environmental Research Area and Prairie Restoration site (view Directions and Map to Sneed Prairie) located approximately 10 miles west of Sherman. Since spring 2002, Austin College has hosted 37 schools from several counties, and more than 11,000 students.
Austin College student field trip leaders describe the plants, animals, and ecology of the tallgrass prairie, discuss the history of land use in our area, and explain our prairie restoration activities. Children learn about native grasses and plant seeds, observe the effects of intentional fires, see how plant roots prevent erosion, “discover” animal skulls, and have a chance to observe and handle large, local fossils. A pavilion with a covered seating area, restrooms, and water fountain allows classes to bring sack lunches. Additionally, the building is solar-powered and contains a rainwater harvesting system for drinking water. The sustainable design of the building is featured during the field trip.
Comments From Local Teachers
“I always look forward to teaching this unit. Kids come back from the Sneed Prairie with a much keener sense of the prairie biome and a heightened interest in their own environment. Of course, fire and buffalo hook them, but it is particularly rewarding when they become interested in aquifers, native grasses, and erosion, and when they display a budding sense of stewardship for the land. Bringing kids out to stand in fields of native grasses, listen to bird songs, plant seeds, and paw at the earth like bison is a terrific experience.”
Shann Shubert, 4th Grade Teacher, Neblett Elementary School, Sherman ISD
“We have been going to Sneed Prairie for several years and consider it an important part of our learning experience. Our students love participating in these hands-on activities!”
Laura Blalock, 4th Grade Teacher, Sory Elementary School, Sherman ISD
For Scheduling and Other Inquiries Please Contact:
Coordinator for the Center for Environmental Studies
Preparation and Follow-up Resources:
We recommend that students have some preparation for the field trip. Please note the resource links above and their descriptions in this section. An introductory film entitled, "The Blackland Prairie: Past, Present, and Future," serves as a thorough introduction to the history and ecology of our site as well as the blackland prairie ecosystem. We encourage classes to view the video prior to their arrival at the site; a link to the video is provided above. A Worksheet for Use with the Video, "The Blackland Prairie: Past, Present, and Future," is available to download and print. Additionally, teachers may benefit from previewing the Student Field Notebook prior their scheduled field trip(s). While exploring Sneed Prairie, your students will use their field notebooks and a clipboard to retain concepts and vocabulary; all supplies are provided by field trip leaders on-site. TEKS-aligned Lesson Plans for After the Field Trip are available above and can be downloaded. Classes are welcome to visit the site without using these materials, but teacher comments have indicated that students have a more engaging experience if their field trip is complemented by classroom activities.
How to Schedule a Sneed Prairie Field Trip:
Please call or email the coordinator for the Center for Environmental Studies to schedule your field trip; contact information is available above. Please refer to the following guidelines to expedite the scheduling process. Field trips are offered during the fall and spring according to Austin College's academic schedule. We invite you to request either morning or afternoon field trips, though not all school days will be available. Dates are reserved on a first-come, first-served basis. Field trips last approximately 1.5 hours (not including time for children to enjoy lunch at the pavilion, if desired). Suggested arrival for morning trips is 9 a.m. (by request, children can enjoy lunch in the pavilion following the field trip). Suggested arrival for afternoon trips is 12:15 p.m. (by request, children can enjoy lunch in the pavilion upon arrival at the site). We are somewhat flexible and will be happy to work with your needs. You may schedule filed trips for multiple days if you have several classes. Please advise us of special needs children so we can better accommodate them.
The covered pavilion is spacious enough for classes to enjoy lunch, and it features restroom facilities and a water fountain. Please plan to pack out your own trash if you have lunch at the site. We recycle and will request that your students help us identify items for our recycling containers. We encourage you to have the students bring water bottles if the day is warm. Please encourage children and parents to plan on water for lunch and avoid soft drinks to avoid dehydration. Basic first aid equipment is on hand, and field trip leaders carry first aid backpacks.
Field trips will be cancelled or postponed if thunderstorms and/or lightning are in the vicinity or if substantial rain is falling. Please call the Coordinator for the Center for Environmental Studies if you wish to cancel or postpone a trip due to weather conditions or for other reasons. We will be happy to try to reschedule any field trip.
There are a few hazards at any field site. We do our best to design the trips to avoid predictable hazards; no children have been injured at the site. The most common hazards are fire ants, thorny trees, and holes in the ground dug by burrowing animals. Other potential hazards include old barbed wire fences and electric fences. We will stay away from both. Only if students are disruptive or inattentive will they have a significant prospect of encountering either type of fence. Lots of other risks (e.g. rattlesnakes) are possible but far less likely. Have your students wear long pants, socks, and sturdy shoes (not sandals) on the day of the field trip. Temperatures and wind conditions are more extreme on the open prairie. Please help your students remember to dress appropriately.
Directions From the East (from Sherman)--From the intersection of Hwy. 75 and US Hwy. 82 in Sherman proceed west on US Hwy. 82 W (9.7 miles) to Old Southmayd Road; turn north (right) onto Old Southmayd Road and proceed (1.3 miles) to Keyes Road (sign on right); proceed west (left) on Keyes Road (.5 mile) to Sneed Prairie entrance on the south (left); turn south (left) at Sneed gate with entrance sign and down the driveway to the shed for parking. View Directions and Map to Sneed Prairie.
Directions From the West (from Gainesville)--proceed east on US Hwy. 82 E (19.4 miles); turn left onto Old Southmayd Road. and proceed (1.3 miles) to Keyes Road (sign on right); proceed west (left) on Keyes Road (.5 mile) to Sneed Prairie entrance on the south (left); turn south (left) at Sneed gate with entrance sign and down the driveway to the shed for parking. View Directions and Map to Sneed Prairie.
Field trip transportation costs are reimbursed.
Please send an invoice from the school district to:
Attention: Kelby Archer
900 North Grand Avenue, Suite 61588
Sherman, TX 75090
The Sneed Prairie Field Trip program has been funded by the following organizations over the years: Constellation Energy Eco-Star, Denison Rotary Club, Dixon Water Foundation, the E.P.A., Grayson County Rotary Club, Magnolia Trust, the Meadows Foundation, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Oliver Dewey Mayor Foundation, Robert and Ruby Priddy Charitable Trust, Sherman Rotary Club, Texas Parks and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Whitesboro Rotary Club, and the Wray Trust.
The materials above were developed to be used by teachers for preparation and follow-up for the Austin College Sneed Prairie Field Trip Program. The TEKS Alignment Chart and other related resources were researched, constructed, and compiled by Cassandra Ensminger, who received her B.A. in Environmental Studies from Austin College in 2012 and her M.A.T. from Austin College's Austin Teacher Program in 2013. Associated Student Field Notebook and Lesson Plans were developed by Sarah Stevens, Katie Masucci, and Dr. Peter Schulze, of Austin College, in consultation with Laura Blalock of the Sherman Independent School District.