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Kansas Day at Cheyenne Bottoms
KWEC educator visits Park School to talk about state symbols
Pam Martin shows an ornate box turtle to kindergartners at Park Elementary School for a Kansas Day program. - photo by photos by Susan Thacker/Great Bend Tribune

In honor of Kansas Day, Jan. 29, Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks Educator Pam Martin brought some state symbols from the Kansas Wetlands Education Center to Park Elementary School in Great Bend on Friday. As it turns out, many Kansas animals and plants can be found right here in central Kansas, including the official state bird, reptile and fish.

The state bird is the Western Meadowlark, easily confused with its twin, the Eastern Meadowlark. “The only way you call tell them apart is by listening,” Martin said, playing recordings of both birds’ songs.

“Right now they’re not singing much; they’re looking for food,” she said. “But in the spring that male – the boy – will get up on a fence post and he’ll sing his little heart out! He’s singing to find a girlfriend.”

That was her explanation to kindergartners. Martin would repeat her program to all grades during the day.

The state fish is the channel catfish and the state reptile is the ornate box turtle. For the turtle, Martin had a live specimen to share with the children.

The Kansas state mammal, the American buffalo (bison) is less common but can be found at the Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo. Martin had examples of a hide, skull and horns, and a toe bone from a bison. Noting how Native Americans used every part of the buffalo, Martin said a toe bone could serve as a toy horse, which it resembles.

She also had something that looked like a balloon. “It’s from the bladder of a bison,” she said. Native Americans dried and inflated buffalo bladders to use as water containers. The bladders can also be flattened and used as bags.