Missouri River Country is a vast, complex land containing many different kinds of plant and animal communities. Most of the area is covered by one kind of prairie or another. These are usually classified in a general way as shortgrass, tallgrass, and mixed-grass prairie. In moist draws and river bottoms, you will find woodlands and wetlands. In the west are hills and mountainsides covered by pine forest.
All of these plant communities change over time, and the animals that use them may change as well, in a process called succession. Fire is a dramatic force of change, but change occurs even without fire. Some plants need sunny openings to grow well, and some animals thrive on the plants that live there. These organisms often live in places recently burned. Other plants reproduce almost anywhere, even in deep shade. They may thrive in places not burned for a long time. Some plants and animals can live almost anywhere, regardless of when a fire occurred or how the forest changes.
This activity introduces a map of Missouri River Country and then uses feltboard materials (fig. 24) to tell the story of fire and succession in Missouri River Country. You may want to spread this activity out over several days, presenting one chapter of the 3-chapter feltboard story each day. Primary students help assemble the feltboard as the teacher or other adult reads the story. Elementary students may be able to read the narrative themselves; then they can practice working with the feltboard materials and present the story to their class or other students. If FireWorks is being used in the upper grades of your school, use it to have older students present the story to younger classes.