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Kids explore Kansas Wetlands Education Center
Sunflower Hike
Children take a nature hike at the Kansas Wetlands Education Center. Wednesday was Wetlands Education Day, an annual event for second graders in Barton County. - photo by Susan Thacker/Great Bend Tribune

Area children didn’t have to travel far on Wednesday for a field trip to a national treasure. The Kansas Wetlands Education Center on K-156 overlooks Cheyenne Bottoms, the largest inland marsh in the United States and a Ramsar-designated Wetland of International Importance.
Each year, Barton County second graders converge on the KWEC for Wetlands Education Day. They spent the day learning about the plants and animals that can be found here in Barton County – from red-earred sliders to Canada geese. One program was devoted entirely to nocturnal animals.
The day is sponsored by the KWEC and Friends of Cheyenne Bottoms, and features seven learning stations, set up indoors and outdoors. Even the physical activities are educational. At one station, children could run and jump over hurdles representing the obstacles birds must overcome to stay alive: Power lines, tall buildings, shrinking habitat, toxic chemicals and hungry cats. There was also a scavenger hunt and a nature hike.
Children also toured the Natural Resource Conservation District’s Soil Tunnel Trailer, to see what goes on beneath the surface of the land.
This was the sixth year for the event. Participating schools were Central Plains USD 112; Ellinwood USD 355 and St. Joseph School in Ellinwood; Hoisington USD 431; the Great Bend USD 428 elementary schools, Riley, Jefferson, Lincoln, Park and Eisenhower; and Central Kansas Christian Academy and Holy Family School, both in Great Bend.
KWEC Director Curtis Wolf said numerous contributors helped sponsor this year’s event, which was attended by 396 children.