NET Foundation for Television

$20,000 grant for the Platte River Basin Timelapse Project

Cooper Foundation provided start-up funding for this endeavor with a grant in 2010 to purchase specialized camera equipment for the Platte River Basin Timelapse (PBT) project. A team led by NET Television’s Michael Farrell and photographer Michael Forsberg used cameras to capture the ebb and flow of the Platte River Basin, showcasing how natural and manmade events change it over time. Each camera takes a picture every daylight hour of every day. Currently, the project has more than 60 time-lapse camera systems placed throughout the 90,000 square-mile basin, from its headwaters along the Continental Divide in the Colorado Rockies to the river’s confluence with the Missouri River on Nebraska’s eastern border.

The PBT team creates innovative content to tell the myriad stories of the Platte. Their educational multimedia story series featuring STEM-based curricula tied to standards along with engaging photographs, videos, infographics and interactive games and a forthcoming documentary film created for public television. Total Cooper Foundation funding to date for this project is $165,000.

Prairie Loft Center for Outdoor and Agricultural Learning (Hastings)

$10,000 grant for the Experiential Education Program

Prairie Loft is the only organization within a 90-mile radius of Adams County that offers farm-based outdoor education. Located just west of Hastings, Nebraska, the site was once part of a working farm that fed more than 1,000 people for 80 years at the former state mental hospital. Original farm buildings and grounds have been renovated and updated, creating new and expanded space for the community to gather and learn.

The Experiential Education Program provides field trips, family programs, summer camps, workshops, community events, and other activities to teach agricultural appreciation and create cultural connections to people, food, and the land. Every experience is hands-on, active, place-based learning for people of all ages, with a special focus on families and kids, including disadvantaged and underserved youth within the region.

“Prairie Loft brings people together through ideas and experiences that they cannot find anywhere else. Farm-based experiential education means muddy hands and a-ha moments. It means chasing butterflies and calling cows, sharing stories and planting seeds.

Community encouragement for the work we do feeds my passion for Prairie Loft’s mission. We are grounded in history and heritage as we teach and inspire future generations in ways that are inclusive, active, and meaningful. I get to work and learn every day at Prairie Loft to help people make connections – to each other, to agriculture, and to the land and the natural environment.” – Amy Sandeen, Executive Director

Wachiska Audubon Society

$8,840 grant toward The Fertig Prairie Acquisition Project

There are few intact prairies left in eastern Nebraska, and they are critical for many prairie butterflies and insect species, provide important migration and nesting areas for grassland birds, and vital habitat for badgers, fox, gophers, reptiles and other species.

Wachiska Audubon has been working to preserve native prairies in eastern Nebraska for over twenty years. Starting in the early 1990s, they were successful in preserving Lincoln’s Nine Mile Prairie, and since then have preserved 25 small and mid-sized native prairies throughout southeastern Nebraska through conservation easements.

They also own a number of native prairies including Fertig Prairie, located near Schuyler, Nebraska. Cooper Foundation’s grant helped leverage significant support from the Nebraska Environmental Trust and other private donors for this purchase. Wachiska Audubon makes these sites available for education, for research, and for enjoyment by the public. The prairies are used by school groups (particularly Prairie Discovery Days for fourth graders), as well as professors, graduate students and public entities. The public enjoys them for hiking, bird watching, and photography.

“We believe that it is important to preserve native tallgrass prairies to protect a variety of prairie plants, some of which are rare and becoming more rare with time. Because there are so few prairies left in eastern Nebraska, they have become vital as refuges for many prairie butterflies and other insects that have nowhere else to live and survive. They serve as important nesting areas for grassland birds, such as grasshopper sparrows, bobolinks, meadowlarks, and upland sandpipers that can only nest in grassland. Prairies also provide needed migration and wintering habitat for some prairie birds.

Prairie voles, mice, badgers, fox, pocket gophers, and a variety of other rodents depend on the prairie as well as a number of reptile species. Many of these cannot survive without prairie areas for their home. Protecting the Fertig Prairie will not stop the loss of grassland habitat and the rapid disappearance of prairie birds, but it will help slow down this loss.” – Tim Knott, Board Member

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