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Free as a bird;Area second graders experience the best of the outdoors Barton County has to offer
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Caleb McNett flies through the obstacle course at a high rate of speed at the third annual 2nd Grade Wetlands Education Day. All second graders from Barton County attended the event. - photo by KAREN LA PIERRE

BARTON COUNTY — Area birders in the form of Barton County second graders flocked to the Kansas Wetlands Education Center on a pleasantly warm Wednesday for the third annual Wetlands Education Day to learn about the valuable resources right here in Barton County.
There were 353 excited students travelling to seven learning stations covering, soil, night sounds, water cycle, obstacle course, the water cycle, a nature hike and scavenger hunt.
“We’re having a great day,” said Marcia Westhoff, president of the Friends of Cheyenne Bottoms who sponsor the event. “The weather is great, and we have a wonderful group of volunteers.”
The students learned such things as the white grub eats roots and then becomes the June bug. Insects live in the soils as well as bacteria.
Pam Tucker, Barton County Conservation District, told the students that when the settlers from came to Kansas, there were no trees, which is why some buildings and fences were made of limestone.
There was also a display of old oil cans that used to be buried in the ground. “Now we take those to the landfill,” she said.
Even some of the volunteers and teachers had a new experience. Jefferson School teacher Erin Holste has lived in Great Bend her entire life and had never been to Cheyenne Bottoms.
“It’s great. It’s fun,” said Holste. “I never been out here my whole life. There’s a ton out here.”
The students also saw a live snake. “Snakes are in a hole during the day,” said Curtis Wolf, manager of KWEC. The students also listened to the sounds of the wild including an eastern screech owl.
The students were divided into groups of birds. The birds were avocet, bittern, dowitcher, crane, egret, grebe, falcon, heron ibis, kildeer, lark, mallard and night hawk.