All About the Prairie Coloring Book
As a Green Iowa AmeriCorps member, it is a part of my service that I complete a professional development project (PDP). My first service term was 2021-22 and I remember racking my brain trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I narrowed my ideas down, and the idea of creating a coloring book captured my attention more than any other, and so I set off on creating an informational native prairie plants of Iowa coloring book.
Why Did I Want to Make A Coloring Book?
When I was first brainstorming PDP ideas, I knew that I wanted my project to make a lasting impact. The hope was that at least part of my project would be a lasting material that my host site, the Tallgrass Prairie Center, could continue using in the future. Additionally, I wanted to ensure that I developed myself as a naturalist.
I landed on the coloring book and it served all of those purposes and more. I have always had an interest in art and in drawing the natural world, so it seemed natural to want to draw these plants as well. In creating this coloring book I have become much more knowledgeable of the plants, birds, and insects that we might find in Iowa and have greatly improved in my identification skills. I also managed to create an educational resource that my host site, other Green Iowa AmeriCorps members, and the entire public have access to.
Who is This For?
This coloring book is for anyone who is new to the prairie, knowledgeable about prairies, or just enjoys coloring. I wanted to make the information accessible to as many people as possible, and tried to formulate the language so that it could be a good introduction to both the prairie and to botanical terms. In short, this coloring book is for everyone!
How Did I Do It?
Step 1: The Plan
I am a type A person when it comes to planning projects. Before I ever set pen to paper I set up an elaborate plan detailing the who, what, when, why, and how of the project.
I listed all of the species that I would like to include, plus a few extras, as well as a timeline. I also detailed my initial process after looking at the materials that I had available.
Step 2: From Pencil to Paper
My first step in all of the pages was to draw them out on paper. I would look at several references, both digital and physical, and create a simple image that highlights the accurate biology of each species. From there, I would outline each drawing in a paper mate flair pen, erasing any pencil marks left over.
Step 3: From Physical to Digital
My next step was to scan each image using the printer. I would then download the PDFs and open them in Illustrator, where I would image trace. This would create a black and white outline of each image that I could then put together into the pages.
Step 4: Assembling the Pages
Once the Illustrator outlines were complete and reviewed, I placed the images into InDesign pages. From there I used a variety of resources to collect information to label the plant species and provide physical and behavioral information on the insect and bird species.
All information and images within these coloring pages were reviewed by the staff at the Tallgrass Prairie Center to ensure accuracy.
Step 5: Editing
While this is step 5, the editing process occurred throughout the entirety of this project. Once I had all of the images drawn I sent them along to the host site staff (the experts) to point out any changes they felt would better portray the species and to point out any inaccuracies in the labeling and other information. Additionally, our community engagement coordinator, Anne Phillips, was fantastic in offering edits on the design elements.
Now that the coloring book is complete I am working on sharing it with as many groups and individuals as possible. Currently it is available on Scholarworks where you can download both a high-resolution and low-resolution version. If you choose to download the book in its entirety, there is a cover page, a page explaining how to use the book to learn, a note about the inclusion of the Meskwaki translations, and a page for your own field notes.
I hope that anyone and everyone who chooses to use my book will learn at least something new about the prairie and what lives in it. It is free for anyone to download and use.
You can find a link to the coloring book on Scholarworks here. Happy coloring!
I would like to thank all of the staff at the Tallgrass Prairie Center, especially Anne Phillips, Laura Walter, Kristine Nemec, and Laura Jackson for their help in making this book happen. Without their knowledge and expertise the pages would not be nearly as interesting or accurate as they are.
Additionally, I would like to thank Pam Wolter for her help in sharing this project with so many different groups and agencies. The biggest part about creating a resource is getting it to the people who would like to use it.
About the Author
Bri Hull is the Communications Associate at the Tallgrass Prairie Center. Originally from Kansas City, Missouri, Bri came to Iowa to attend Wartburg College. In her time in Iowa she developed an interest in environmental science and stayed to learn more about ways she can help her community. In her time with Green Iowa AmeriCorps, Bri hopes to learn how to become more eco-friendly and how to reach out to her community to do the same.