Category Archives: Arts & Sciences

What’s In a Prairie?

You have heard Illinois called the Prairie State, but do you know what a prairie is? Hint: it’s NOT weeds!

Before the state was settled, 60 percent of Illinois (22 million+ acres) was covered by vast expanses of tallgrass. The deep  prairie plants’ roots (up to 15 feet!) make topsoils incredibly productive, and thus fertile for agriculture.  The invention of the John Deere self-scouring plow in 1837 made it possible to break up the prairie sod and change it into farmland. Many prairies still existed at that time, however, because there was too much water in many soils to farm well. By 1935, enough drain tile had been laid in Illinois to thoroughly drain off the soil water into drainage ditches, allowing the productive soils to be intensely farmed. 

Today, only 2,000 acres of prairie remain in Illinois (that’s .0001 percent).

You might be familiar with big bluestem, Illinois’ official prairie grass, but did you know there are about 150 kinds of grasses native to  prairies, including Indian grass, wild rye, and switchgrass? Native prairie wildflowers (forbs) include coneflowers, compass and cup plants with their bright yellow flowers, and milkweeds–the only plant species that monarch butterflies lay their eggs on. Prairies also provide habitat for hundreds of animal species. Check out the Illinois Plant Information Network database, which lists 851 species of plants native to Illinois prairies. 

Parkland’s prairie restoration, located due east of the Student Union, was started in the 1990s through the efforts of former biology professors Rich Blazier and Earl Creutzberg, along with community members and organizations and Parkland students. Today’s environmental and plant biology students learn about prairie and other ecosystems in Parkland’s natural land areas and regularly participate in prairie workdays, learning how to maintain prairies by collecting seeds, helping with prairie burns, and removing invasive plants.

Parkland’s Sustainable Campus Committee and Physical Plant hope to expand the prairie restoration by about 15 acres, including large tracts behind the Athletics track and small showy native flower beds by the buildings. This could eliminate hours of mowing, lowering the college’s carbon footprint by reducing fuel use. It also means beautiful flowers throughout the growing season. Planting tallgrass prairie costs less than planting turf grass, and requires little maintenance. Tallgrass prairie helps control drainage, prevents erosion, brings important pollinators to the area, and reminds us of our natural heritage.

 

Jonathan from Illinois Soil and Water Conservation
Jonathan from Illinois Soil and Water Conservation District loads prairie seed into the planter.

Parkland biology professor Heidi Leuszler recently worked with Pheasants Forever to establish a new one-acre tallgrass prairie across the Perimeter Drive in front of the union. The seed mix included about 75 species of prairie plants native to east-central soils.

Now that you know about Parkland’s prairie restoration, watch from the big windows in the welcome areaor better yet, walk right out the front door—to see how prairie changes over the seasons, and observe the wildlife that finds a safe home in Parkland’s prairie.

Listen. Learn. Live…on WPCD

Did you know Parkland College has its own radio station on the FM dial? I didn’t either, until I took COM 141 (Basic Broadcast Announcing) as an elective and now, the rest is history!

WPCD 88.7  FM blasts new up and coming alternative artists as well as the forefathers of alternative music 24/7 and allows Parkland students the chance to hone their radio skills live on the air. To go along with their on-air training, students are tasked with making promotional spots and writing their own copy for public service announcements, news segments, and weather spots. There is also a chance to do live on-air spots from shows happening throughout Champaign-Urbana.

As you progress in the radio courses, there is an opportunity to interview bands and artists live in the studio or over the phone, which then allows you to use the editing skills you learned in class to produce an interview segment you can play during your radio show.  Whether you are into the music playing on WPCD or not, the experience you gain from the course work and on-air spots is an amazing one. It has given me much more confidence in other courses and in life as well.

Being on air at WPCD brings loads of real-life experience and gives you the feeling that you are actually working at a radio station. Even if radio isn’t your thing or your dream, being in an environment that promotes creativity while teaching life skills is an invaluable one that I would suggest to anyone who is attending Parkland!

 

Aron Ammann is a Virgo who likes long walks on the beach and spending time in the kitchen whipping up culinary masterpieces. He also enjoys spending time on 88.7 WPCD as the co-host of “The Mid-Morning Mess” alongside Chad Myler.  Aron stumbled upon the COM 141 class as an elective for his program of study and found that he really enjoyed the art of radio. An Iraq veteran, Aron has found his time on the air to be a therapeutic experience as well.

How Clubs, Orgs AMP Up Your Student XP

paigesm

Hey guys! I’m Paige and I am majoring in communication here at Parkland. Have you ever thought about joining an organization or club at Parkland? Starting college, I never thought I would join any club or organization, but here I am.

I saw ads for “AMP” hanging all over Parkland, I but never thought about joining until it was brought up in one of my classes. Then all of a sudden, AMP sparked my interest.

AMP is a student-driven public relations firm, where we work as a team to do promotional work for clients. One thing that really made me want to pursue AMP was that I get to work with graphic designers, advertisers, and general education students. Knowing that I get to work with a wide variety of people with all different majors made me apply for AMP with full force. It is like working in a real-world firm.

Once I applied and got a position at AMP, the coordinators worked with my schedule and now I’m there two days a week working on projects for clients. I have already taken so much from this experience. I have learned about some do’s and don’ts of graphic design (something I knew nothing about before), learned how to compose a strategic plan, and right now I’m in the midst of learning to make a website.

All of these things will help me in my career once I am done at Parkland.

So, I guess what I’m trying to get at here is to give organizations and clubs a chance at Parkland. Don’t just pass by those signs in the hallway;  take the time to look at them and actually consider joining one of them!

Welcome to the MOOC

As many of you know, MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are becoming quite popular as a new way for people to learn. We thought we might try a smaller version of some MOOCs here at Parkland College, but in a shorter, more quickly digested form. We also thought it would be a good idea to call these Mini-MOOCs. Not surprisingly, someone else thought that too and already took that catchy little name. So, for the sake of not stealing from others, we will call ours…I don’t know, Micro-MOOCs, Microscopic-MOOCs?

How about you just call it what you want for now.

In our first edition, we get an intelligent and entertaining look at a scene from the classic Alfred Hitchcock movie, North by Northwest. If you have seen the movie, this is an awesome companion piece. If you haven’t seen the movie, this short lecture will probably make you want to watch it. Either way, it’s some fascinating insight into filmmaking.

This particular scene involves a conversation, a shooting, and a child who’s tired of hearing gun shots all the darned time. We’ll let Parkland College instructor Matt Hurt explain the rest.