Lily Lake Lesson: A Native Species Oasis

Goal: Students will understand how the Lily Lake in Amana was formed, the biodiversity in and around the lake, the difference between native and introduced species, and the roles native species play in their environment.

Introduction

Lily Lake Lesson Lily Lake Lesson

The Lily Lake near Middle Amana has long been a popular tourist attraction, particularly in the summer, when the American lotus that carpets the top of the lake blooms. The lotuses are the most visible of an astonishing variety of native Iowa plants that live in and around the Lily Lake. A study of the lake found a number of native animals, including frogs, birds, Eastern chipmunks, muskrats, and snapping turtles, snakes, and 201 native plant species in and around the lake.

A mix of natural and human influences has shaped the lake. The existing marshy lowland filled with water from the mill race after a break in the levee in about 1870. The lake was used to store water used to power the turbines at the dam in Amana. When river levels were low the control gate at the downstream end of the lake could be closed at night to impound water for use the following day. The lake also served as a source of ice for Middle Amana and Amana before electric refrigeration, and as a place for recreation.

Bordered on two sides by a road and the mill race and adjacent to marshy land, the shores of the Lily Lake were protected from the plowing and tiling that altered much of the native prairie in the Amana Colonies. Though it has been regularly mowed, many native species remain, providing habitat for native and introduced animal species and helping maintain water quality by slowing runoff.

Insects, fish, mammals, reptiles, birds, and terrestrial and aquatic plants thrive in the lake's waters and on its shore and interact to form a complicated web. Plants produce seed and foliage that many animals eat. Animals spread the seed to new locations through their digestive tracts and in their fur, feathers, or feet. Burrowing animals tunneling to create their homes, and others digging to find food, aerate the soil. The vegetation and prodigious roots of prairie plants hold the soil in place and slow runoff, reducing erosion.

The prairie remnant and lake contrast sharply with the nearby crop and pasture lands. Those landscapes have one or two plant species, planted in rows, and a handful of animal species. Erosion has been reduced by buffer strips planted along streams and ditches, but tiling has increased the drainage of water, shrinking marsh and wetland habitats. The Amana Society is reintroducing some wetlands and prairies into its lands. Near High Amana there is a wetland reserve that has supported the reintroduction of trumpeter swans in Iowa. Alongside the Kolonieweg, to the east of the Lily Lake, a new prairie has been planted, and a handful of remnant prairies are being protected and rejuvenated elsewhere in the valley. All of these lands increase the resiliency and biodiversity of Amana Society lands.

The Lily Lake can be visited easily by school groups. A parking area on the north side of the lake, just off 220th Trail, can accommodate school buses. The new prairie can be viewed by walking a short distance along the trail on the eastern side of the lake.

Materials
Lesson Steps
  1. Explain how the Lily Lake was formed and why native plants and animals are numerous there, relative to the surrounding farmland. Show students the map of the Amana Colonies and point out where the lake is located.

  2. Show students a sampling of photos of native species and talk about why they live near the lake and what role they play in that ecosystem.

  3. Have students choose an animal or plant to write about. They will use the internet or library to research their subject.

  4. Students will print out a picture or make a drawing of their species, then write about what type of habitat it requires, what food it eats or what eats it, and what effect it has on the ecosystem. Encourage students to use scientific terminology, such as predator, prey, food chain, etc. Younger students can start with the writing prompt, "I was walking around the Lily Lake and I saw a …"
Lesson Extensions
  1. Students can present their plant or animal to the whole class or to small groups.

  2. All of the student projects can be gathered together and bound with o-rings into a Lily Lake book.

  3. Students can write a diary entry, "A day in the life of a muskrat at the Lily Pond" and describe the day using the five senses: "I see," "I hear," "I taste/eat," and "I feel." The diary entries could be put together in a book and students could talk about how the species interact.

  4. The class could make a website with tabs for different types of species, such as plants or animals. The students could describe their species habits, or use a first person approach and describe a typical day.
Additional Resources

Iowa Association of Naturalists pamphlet series (www.iowanaturalists.org/resource_booklets.htm)

Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Biodiversity of Iowa; Aquatic Habitats CD
(To request a FREE copy, email edinfo@dnr.iowa.gov)

Mark Müller, Wetlands in Your Pocket: A Guide to Common Plants and Animals of Midwestern Wetlands
(Iowa City, University of Iowa Press, 2005)

Christine Taliga, Restoration Ecologist and Land Stewardship Program Director, Iowa Valley RC&D, "Lily Lake Study" pdf

Iowa CORE Standards, Essential Concepts, and Essential Skills addressed by this lesson

K-5 Writing

#2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.

#7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.


6-12 Writing

#2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.

#4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

#7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

#8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while.

#10 Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.


K-2 Science as Inquiry

Ask questions about objects, organisms, and events in the environment.

Plan and conduct simple investigations.


6-8 Science as Inquiry

Understand that different kinds of questions suggest different kinds of scientific investigations.

Use evidence to develop descriptions, explanations, predictions, and models.


3-5 Science as Inquiry

Identify and generate questions that can be answered through scientific investigations.

Recognize that scientists perform different types of investigations.

Communicate scientific procedures and explanations.


K-2 Life Science

Understand and apply knowledge of the characteristics of living things and how living things are both similar to and different from each other and from non-living things.

Understand and apply knowledge of the basic needs of plants and animals and how they interact with each other and their physical environment.
Understand and apply knowledge of ways to help take care of the environment.


6-8 Life Science

Understand and apply knowledge of interdependency of organisms, changes in environmental conditions, and survival of individuals and species and the cycling of matter and energy in ecosystems.


3-5 Life Science

Understand and apply knowledge of organisms and their environments, including structures, characteristics, and adaptations of organisms that allow them to function and survive within their habitats; how individual organisms are influenced by internal and external factors; the relationships among living and non-living factors in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.

Understand and apply knowledge of environmental stewardship.


9-12 Life Science

Understand and apply knowledge of the interdependence of organisms.


K-2 Geography

Understand how geographic processes and human actions modify the environment and how the environment affects humans.


3-5 and 6-8 Geography

Understand how physical processes and human actions modify the environment and how the environment affects humans.


9-12 Geography

Understand how human actions modify the environment and how the environment affects humans.

Understand relationships between soil, climate, plant and animal life affect the distributions of ecosystems.

Understand the importance of ecosystems in understanding the environment.

Understand social, cultural and economic processes shape the features of places.

Understand the effects of human and physical changes in ecosystems both localy and globally.


3-5 History

Understand the effect of economic needs and wants on individual and group decisions

Understand the effects of geographic factors on historical events.


6-8 History

Understand the effects of geographic factors on historical events.