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Wetlands wonderland
KWEC open house features Kansas nature

Fluffy flakes of snow were falling on Cheyenne Bottoms when the Kansas Wetlands Education Center opened its doors Saturday morning, but it only added to the festive spirit at the center’s open house.
“It was standing room only,” KWEC Educator Jean Aycock said. “There was a little snow coming down about 9 o’clock, but none of it stuck.” One family drove more than an hour to attend.
The nature walks were canceled, but the rest of the open house went as planned.
Kansas Department of Wildlife Parks & Tourism KWEC Educator Pam Martin said 45 gingerbread houses were assembled during one of the free activities.
“So much icing!” Aycock said. “I’ve been in bakeries that didn’t smell as sugary.”
“We had lots of great volunteers and they made the open house go really well,” Martin said. Volunteers included, for the second time this year, girls from Ellinwood High School performing community service as a graduation requirement. The Friends of Cheyenne Bottoms group provided refreshments.
“I had fun,” 10-year-old Samantha Teri from Great Bend said. “I made a birdhouse.”
Sisters Halle Post, 10, and Camdyn Post, 8, also from Great Bend, took part in the activities as well. Like Samantha, they made the sweetly edible birdhouses for their homes, and some “birdhouse swag” for outdoors. They strung cranberries, popcorn, Cheerios and bits of apple, making garlands for the birds in their back yards.

DIY bird garland
Making a bird garland is an easy activity. Use a needle with a large eye, and string or yarn. Foods that can go on the garland include unsalted popcorn, fresh berries, grapes or apple chunks, unsalted peanuts in the shells, and toasted or stale bread cut into fun shapes with cookie cutters.
Barry Bowers of Great Bend gave woodcarving demonstrations during the open house. He is a member of the Golden Belt Woodcarvers and some of his handiwork can be found in the KWEC gift shop.
Coming up
The next activity at the KWEC is the Cheyenne Bottoms Naturalists group’s “Winter Wonderlands,” from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Dec. 10. “This is our last CBN morning of the year,” Aycock said. “It will be another come and go style event.”
The topic for “Winter Wonderlands” is how the critters of Cheyenne Bottoms survive winter’s chill. From insects to mammals to birds to reptiles, staff will share nature’s secrets for surviving the cold. Most activities will take place indoors, but participants are welcome to come dressed for the weather and enjoy a walk on the nature trail.
The KWEC is located at 592 NE K-156 in northeast Barton County. Its winter hours are now in effect; it is open from 1-5 p.m. Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and closed on Mondays. Admission is always free.