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Hands-on programs at KWEC teach kids, adults about wetlands life
Wetlands instructor
FHSU Biology graduate student Lauren Jarboe instructs students on how to make their own “food chains” using magazine pictures and paper cup’s during the KWEC’s “Who Eats Who in the Wetlands?” Spring Break activity Thursday afternoon. - photo by Daniel Kiewel

Spring Break provided the perfect opportunity for the Kansas Wetlands Education Center to provide area kids hands-on opportunities to learn about life in the wetlands.

KWEC Director Curtis Wolf said after a year of Facebook and Zoom programs, it’s been nice to be able to host in-person programs for kids and adults alike.

“We’re glad to have people out and coming to do these activities,” Wolf said. “People have really appreciated being able to come out and (participate).”

This year during Spring Break, KWEC hosted a special activity each day put together by graduate students from Fort Hays State University.

On Monday, in “The Science of Rainbows,” students had a chance to learn about how rainbows are formed. Tuesday, “Digging Into Dirt” showed kids how soil is created and how it’s moved around by natural forces to create different landforms. Wednesday, in “Microscope Magic,” kids were able examine specimens through microscopes, as well as make their own microscopes. Thursday, in “Who Eats Who in the Wetland?” kids learned how food chains work by designing their own “food chains” from magazine pictures and cups. Friday, in “Wonders of Water,” students used hands-on activities to learn about the properties of water.

The goal, Wolf said, was to offer fun, hands-on activities for kids and adults to take in together while being able to experience all the other exhibits and activities the KWEC has to offer. He feels like turnout for this year’s spring break activities has been positive.

But the spring break activities are only a small part of the hands-on learning opportunities KWEC offers to kids and adults alike, Wolf said.

In a typical year, Wolf said they host many school programs and field trips and spend time going to schools for outreach. And while it is not their preferred method, Wolf said even during the pandemic they have been able to provide several programs via Zoom and Facebook.

“We’ve had to change some of the methods that we use, but it’s worked,” Wolf said.

Along with Spring Break activities, KWEC typically offers summer camps, Winter Break family programs and the annual Butterfly Festival in September. Along with those special events, they typically do stargazing, birding, and crafting programs, among many others.

Wolf credited Pam Martin, Educational Specialist for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, and Mandy Kern KWEC Program Specialist, and the work they do educating the public about the wetlands.

“They are two of the most passionate people that I know for environmental education,” Wolf said. “I think they do an excellent job in the programs that we’re able to offer.”

The KWEC is located at 592 NE K-156, northeast of Great Bend. For more information, call 620-566-1456 or the toll-free number, 877-243-9268.