Two hundred and twenty avocets, bitterns, cormorants, dowitchers, egrets, falcons and grebes roosted at the Kansas Wetlands Education Center on Thursday in the form of USD 428 second-graders for the first annual education day to learn about the wild, wonderful wetlands in Barton County.
The children were divided into seven groups, all named for birds that visit CB. The event was hosted by the Friends of Cheyenne Bottoms.
Migrating to seven learning centers to study about our feathered friends in the central flyway, students learned that some birds fly all the way from the Arctic Circle to South America through Cheyenne Bottoms each spring and each fall.
Opening the day, FOCB Vice-President Travis Thompson welcomed the children and teachers, and also local dignitaries including Mayor Mike Allison, Superintendent of USD 428 schools Tom Vernon, City Administrator Howard Partington, Skip Yowell, graduate of Park School, Roosevelt Junior High and Great Bend High School, and a founder of Jansport, Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks Commissioner Shari Wilson, the Great Bend Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Golden Belt Community Foundation Director, and various other representatives of the schools and area.
The purpose of the day was "to inform people of the great resources we have at Cheyenne Bottoms," said Thompson.
Yowell, who is a board member of the FOCB, spoke about the importance of Cheyenne Bottoms in his own life. An avid sportsman, Yowell, saw the whooping cranes, shot carp with a bow and arrow, ice skated, and played hockey at the Bottoms.
Mayor Mike Allison also spoke. "Welcome second-graders, on your pilgrimage to the wetlands at Cheyenne Bottoms," said Mayor Allison in the opening ceremony. "Nobody else has all of the animals and birds that pass through here."
The students learned about the water cycle and the importance of conservation and prevention of groundwater pollution from Libby Albers, educator for the WATER Center in Wichita. "There is no new water," said Albers. "The same water is made over and over again. These rain drops (here today) might be from the Gulf of Mexico. Don’t waste water."
She explained the different parts of the water cycle, from groundwater to glaciers and lakes, and snow and ice. The children then made a bead bracelet with each color representing such things as soil, ice and oceans.
The children also learned about soil, ran an obstacle course, walked the nature trail, learned about the sounds the wildlife make, did a scavenger hunt and studied insects.
"This is such a special place," said Susan Young, teacher at Lincoln School. She was also appreciative of the work done by the FOCB. "So many people worked so hard."
"It was as well-organized as can be," she added. "It is successful already."
The groundwork for the Friends of Cheyenne Bottoms was laid by the Great Bend Convention and Visitors Bureau. Members of the 2009 Golden Belt Foundation Community Leadership Class were Thompson, Karen La Pierre, Kristy Nissily and Marcia Westhoff, who turned the vision into a reality beginning in October of 2009 with formation of a board of directors. The first major project of the FOCB has been the education day. Members of the committee for the day were those listed above as well as Kristy Rupe.
"We would like to plan many more activities for the future," said Thompson.