CLAFLIN — Studying the lives of bees, along with other creatures, Claflin Elementary School students learned all about Kansas state facts from the educators at the Kansas Wetlands Education Center on Thursday last week.
In an afternoon filled with interactive activities, the students practiced the bee dance, got hands-on experience looking at live animals, and got to make some duck calls.
Explaining some of the science of bees, Pam Martin, educator at KWEC, said, "Worker bees help make the hive." The bees store food and make pollen. In addition, they do a pattern of dance known as the bee dance or the waggle dance to communicate information.
Martin then explained about the state bird, the western meadowlark. It was officially named the state bird in 1937, chosen by a vote of the state’s children. It has a long yellow chest and a black necklace and eats worms and insects. The main difference between an eastern meadowlark and a western meadowlark is in the call.
The western meadowlark’s call is jumbled and flutey, and Martin played a tape of the sounds so that the students could hear the difference.
The group also studied about the cottonwood tree, which is the Kansas State tree. "The cottonwood tree is one of the few species of trees that can live on the plains," said Martin. The bark is thick and able to withstand prairie fires.
It has a long tap root to keep it wet and has both male and female flowers. The cottonwood tree can grow up to 100 feet tall.
In 1986, the ornate box turtle was named the state reptile. This turtle can completely withdraw its head, legs, neck and tail into its shell, and its diet consists of insects, spiders, worms and some vegetation. The turtle hibernates in the winter.
The barred tiger salamander became the state amphibian in 1994 after a movement by a Wichita Elementary School. "It eats earth worms at night and has to go back to water to lay eggs," said Martin. "It is the largest land-dwelling salamander in the whole world."
In the male, eyes are colored red to orange, and in the female, the eyes yellow to golden, which is the main way to determine the difference between male and female salamanders. They eat plant material as well and can live up to 20 years.
The state flower is the sunflower. Sunflower seeds are an important food source, said Martin. They can also be ground to make oil.
The reason the state symbols were chosen as the topic is, "in conjunction with Kansas Day to explain how the they represent Kansas," said Martin. "All of them can be found throughout Kansas."