PAROC event

Local children from the community build nests with different supplies in order to understand the work put in by birds visiting Cheyenne Bottoms on Nov. 14 at the Prophet Aquatic Research and Outreach Center.

“Science Saturday,” an interactive book reading, was hosted by the Prophet Aquatic Research and Outreach Center on Nov. 13.

Around 20 families and their children were invited to the PAROC to attend the reading and signing by Mandy Kern and her illustrator, Onalee Nicklin. Daphne Mayes, PAROC outreach and engagement coordinator, met Kern over the summer when she visited the Kansas Wetlands Education Center for a workshop.

She was excited to work with Kern because of her involvement with Emporia-based resources such as Nicklin and Emporia’s independent publisher Meadowlark.

“We are wanting to teach people about water and natural resources,” Mayes said. “I just thought bringing her here would be a perfect way to share the art, her book, her expertise, and a part of Kansas that people around here may not know much about.”

Kern’s book, “Ava: A year in the Life of an American Avocet,” is based on a shore bird and follows her migration adventure.

This adventure highlights the use of Cheyenne Bottoms which is a freshwater marsh located in Kansas that many animals rely on for survival.

Mandy Kern was given the inspiration to write a children’s book because of her experience working at the Kansas Wetlands Education Center. Her time there has caused her to develop a love for place-based learning.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and people were no longer able to visit, she had lots of free time which she decided to take advantage of by writing a children’s book about the Kansas wetlands and the importance it holds for wildlife.

“I think if students are growing up in Barton County, where Great Bend is, they should know that Cheyenne Bottoms exists and know that it’s there,” Kern said. “We wanted to be able to make sure that we were still being able to tell the Cheyenne Bottoms story without being in person.”

Nicklen is an artist based in Emporia who worked with Kern to bring this educational book to life. Her artwork is being featured this month at the PAROC building and also being sold during Emporia First Fridays.

Kern gave out free books to all children that attended the event and read the book out loud to them as they followed along. She asked them many questions and brought with her different examples of the types of wildlife found in Cheyenne Bottoms.

Some of these examples included photos of different birds, replicas of the types of eggs they lay, and different types of nests built there.

After the book reading she gave the children different materials that they could use to create their own nests similar to the ones shown in the book. This gave the children a hands-on experience that showed them the amount of work that birds must do to create a sturdy and safe home for their babies.

Kern encourages more people to come visit the Kansas Wetlands Education Center at Fort Hays and take a tour to learn more about the ecosystem we have in our very own state.

Admission is free and more programs are available which can be found online at their website.

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