Solomon Creek Farm: An Illinois Natural Area for Experiential Learning

This spring, a farm located in Illinois became available for students of Southern Illinois University (SIUE) as an experiential learning location. The natural area, known as Solomon Creek Farm, has been preserved since 1999 by landowners Trish and Rip, making it a unique place to experience an array of habitat types from wetlands to old growth forests. Professors in the Department of Biological Sciences–Dr. Kelly Barry, Dr. Rick Essner, and Dr. Kurt Schulz—recently took their SIUE classes to Solomon Creek Farm, each class studying different aspects of the natural area.

“Solomon Creek Farm is a great resource, especially for Ecology, Evolution, and Environment students as it allows them to see ecological restoration firsthand,” remarked Essner who took his Ornithology (BIOL 487) and Wildlife Management (BIOL 460) classes there.

The landowners have implemented many conservation practices on the farm that enable multiple types of habitats to flourish yielding a richly diverse and interactive community of species. “This type of habitat just does not exist anymore,” stated Schulz, who took his Ecology class (BIOL 365) there. “Students do not have many opportunities these days to interact with habitats like these.”

Barry, who took her Techniquest in Plant Tissue Culture class (BIOL 416) out to the farm, spent time observing native plants and eradicating invasive species like garlic mustard. “When we take students to a place like Solomon Creek Farm, it is something that they have never seen before. From a superficial view, it looks like a sleeping forest, but when the students are out there and Trish is showing them the natives next to the invasives, it makes it a very personal experience,” stated Barry.

The owners of Solomon Creek Farm have sought to preserve this land as much as possible, making the landscape a special place for experiential learning for SIUE students and faculty. “The owners of the farm have cared greatly for this land and they have been very generous with their time and efforts in letting students come and spend the day there” (Barry). Barry, Essner, and Schulz plan to take future classes out to the farm. For those that are interested in visiting this unique natural area, contact Dr. Bill Retzlaff, Distinguished Research Professor and Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

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