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FHSU’s Kansas Wetlands Education Center to host ‘Ava the Avocet’ book launch event
COURTESY PHOTO The Kansas Wetlands Education Center is debuting a 32-page fully illustrated children’s book about an American avocet, a species of shorebird. Cheyenne Bottoms and the importance of wetland habitats are featured throughout. Families can receive a free copy at the June book launch event.

HAYS — Fort Hays State University’s Kansas Wetlands Education Center (KWEC) is hosting a free book launch event at 10 a.m. on June 19. Join in for a reading by the author, family-friendly activities, refreshments, and more. 

“Ava: A Year of Adventure in the Life of an American Avocet” is a 32-page, fully illustrated children’s book written by Mandy Kern, program specialist at the KWEC, illustrated by Onalee Nicklin of rural Emporia and published by Meadowlark Press. 

The story follows Ava, the American avocet, a breed of shorebird, that leaves her home at the Laguna Madre and travels 1,000 miles to stay for a season at the largest wetland complex in the interior of the United States. Cheyenne Bottoms, in the middle of Kansas, is home to millions of birds that stop during their annual migrations in the spring and fall, as well as a diverse population of wildlife that make a home there year-round. 

As Ava meets her mate and starts a family, readers are introduced to one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet. 

Thanks to funding by the Dorothy Morrison Foundation, each K-6 classroom in Barton County and every school and public/community library within 70 miles of the center will receive a copy. Every family that attends the book launch event will also receive a free copy. 

Following is the schedule of events:

10:15 a.m. – Attendees are asked to bring lawn chairs to partake in an outside reading by the author.

10:30 a.m. – The Dorothy Morrison Foundation will be recognized for its support.

10:45-11:30 a.m. – Families can rotate through hands-on activities themed to the story. Activity stations include drawing Ava the avocet with the help of the illustrator and writing your own adventure for Ava, engineering your own nest in a STEM challenge, learning more about shorebirds and their calls, running through a migration obstacle course, touching invertebrates, and exploring the importance of wetlands and their functions.

11:30 a.m. - The author and illustrator will be available for signing opportunities. Refreshments will also be served, thanks to the Friends of Cheyenne Bottoms. 

For more information, or if you cannot attend the free event and would like to purchase a copy of the book, visit

Kansas Wetlands Education Center, affiliated with FHSU’s Werth College of Science Technology and Mathematics, is located 10 miles northeast of Great Bend at the Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area.