Skip Navigation

Project Bluestem Curriculum

Students in the oak savanna “It is not half so important to know as to feel…It is more important to pave the way for the child to want to know than to put him on a diet of facts that he is not ready to assimilate.” –Rachel Carson, former USFWS biologist

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. Project Bluestem is the primary curriculum used at Neal Smith NWR.

Original Project Bluestem Curriculum

Written in 1995, the 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

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.

Here is the curriculum by grade for the revised Project Bluestem

“Imagine that you and your students are Sherlock Homes, sleuthing out things to draw- varied leaf shapes, animal evidence, shadows, cloud patterns, a bird flitting by.” – Clare Walker Leslie, on teaching nature journaling
Last Updated: Jun 21, 2012
Return to main navigation