By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Kansas Day goes global
Students mark Kansas' Birthday
Earth Day
Students at Park Elementary School got a global perspective heading into Kansas Day on Friday. The Barton County Conservation District, in cooperation with other Conservation District offices, brought a 19-foot diameter, inflatable globe. Children explored it from the outside and the inside. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

On Monday, Jan. 29, Kansas will celebrate its 163rd birthday. Kansas Day lends itself to history programs and social studies classes across the state. At Park Elementary School in Great Bend, the entire school usually has special programs on the Friday before Kansas Day.

This year, Park School took a global approach. Sixth-grade teacher Eric Dowson arranged for programs featuring the Earth Balloon, an inflatable, 19-foot diameter globe. The program was presented by the Barton County Conservation District, in cooperation with the Conservation Districts in Rush County and Edwards County. Veronica Coons, manager of the Barton County District, said the Pawnee County Conservation District has also been helping with recent area presentations.

Stephanie Royer from La Crosse and Marty Scheve from Kinsley joined Coons at Riley on Friday.

“The Earth Balloon is much like the globe in your classroom,” Coons told students. The balloon resembles how Earth appears from space and was made using 2,000 satellite photos. It differs from the view from space because clouds in the atmosphere that obscure the land have been removed.

It is also different from a typical globe because it shows the geography without the lines that designate political boundaries.

Kansas Day at Park Elementary
Veronica Coons, Barton County Conservation District manager, is shown at the left with Park Elementary fourth-graders - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

The students got an up-close look at the outside of the Earth Balloon. Then Royer took them to the International Date Line, near the fan that kept the globe inflated, and unzipped an opening so everyone could step inside. Standing on Antarctica, they gazed at the map from the inside.

“So cool!” a fourth-grader said, exiting the globe.

“We all live on Earth,” Royer commented. “We live in the United States, we live in Kansas and you all live in Barton County.”

Kansas author

Closer to home, a real Kansas author visited with Park Elementary third graders in the afternoon. Marisa Betts is the author of the “Cow Tales” books. Her first book in the series was “Rowdy Ringo,” a story based on her experience raising a bucket calf with a larger-than-life personality. She has since written “Goodnight Moo,” about another special bucket calf, and “Rowdy Ringo and the Cowboys,” released in 2023. Betts is a farmer and rancher near Dorrance.

Kansas symbols

 Another Kansas Day tradition at Park is a lesson on state symbols adopted by the Legislature. With many of those symbols being plants or animals, who better to give a program than a biologist? The younger children were visited by the Kansas Wetlands Education Center’s Education Specialist, Natalie Unruh.

“It’s Kansas’s birthday!” she said, holding up a state flag. “It’s 163; that’s older than all of your grandparents, I bet.”

She explained that the 34 stars on the State Seal represent Kansas becoming the 34th state.

Sharing state symbols, such as the Western Meadowlark as the State Bird, Unruh explained how some of our newer symbols were chosen.

“School children like you looked around Kansas and noticed something,” she said. They petitioned the Legislature for new additions. Last year, the Sandhill Plum became the official State Fruit.

Kansas Day at Park Elementary
Park Elementary first graders learn about state symbols during a presentation by Natalie Unruh from the Kansas Wetlands Education Center. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO