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    Gavin Spake




    About the Wilderness Science Center

    As our area of the state becomes more populated, there is less land that can truly be considered a natural wildlife area.  The Wilderness Science Center (WSC) is one of the few remaining areas for students to study Kansas natural plant and animal life. The property includes a riparian forest, prairie, and a small wetland.  Students are able to investigate the different ecosystems at the WSC.

    In 2002, the Blue Valley Educational Foundation sponsored the dedication of the classroom building which was made possible by donations from various organizations, including The Victor and Helen Regnier Charitable Foundation.

    A big thank you goes to the Blue Valley Educational Foundation (BVEF). Without their special interest in the WSC, many of the projects and the study stations would not have been possible. Thank you to all individual donors and organizations for their generous gifts that helped to make the WSC an exceptional educational facility. 

    Anyone wanting to donate to the continuation of various projects at the WSC can donate to the BFEF and specify their donation to go to the WSC. 


  • Characteristics of Animals: (1 ½ hours) This is an introduction to the Wilderness Science Center's habitats including the forest, prairie, wetland and native wild animals that live within them. The main focus will be on mammals native to Kansas and their characteristics which include having hair or fur, being warm blooded, having a backbone, giving live birth, feeding young milk, and breathing with lungs. Additionally, students will be introduced to the differences between wild animals and pets. Students will examine photos of fourteen different mammals native to Kansas and match the pictures to pelts of the animals. The class will end with a hike to the different habitats and a discussion of the seasonal changes taking place.

    Spring Scavenger & Sensory Hike (1 ½ hours) This experience will introduce or review the habitats at the WSC and learn about some of the season changes happening within them. They will learn about natural resources, and human impacts on the environment. Students will explore the Wilderness Science Center for various signs/clues of the season spring and use their senses to observe the world around them. Students will utilize their tallying skills in recording their observations. Data can be used to graph their findings from the field experience back at school.

First Grade

  • Plant Structure: (1 ½ hours) Students will learn about plant structure and function. Student will match descriptions of plant parts to a plant part tag they wear around their neck. This will lead to a class activity where some students will take on the role of roots, stems, leaves, or flowers. The class will form a class plant outside. The students will model how water is taken in through the roots of the plant and how it travels up the stem to help combine with sunlight, CO2, and chlorophyll to create plant food. Students will then work in cooperative groups to find examples of plant parts from the forest and prairie habitats. Groups will make a graphic organizer showing examples of stems, roots, leaves, flowers, fruits, and seeds. Edible plant parts will also be discussed.

    Animal Classification: (1 ½ hours) Students will explore the process of classifying animals. Students will learn the difference between vertebrates and invertebrates and make a model of a backbone. Students will examine animal skeletons and live animals and be asked to look for animal clues such as feathers, eggs, scales, and many other animal characteristics while rotating through 6 stations. The six stations are designed to help students understand the differences and similarities between the five different vertebrate groups and one invertebrate group arthropods. Students will record observations of each animal group and identify each group based on the clues they can observe at each station. Students will use their animal clues to identify other animals at the WSC by group.

Second Grade

  • Plant Life Cycle: (1 ½ hours) Students will learn about the live cycle of plants by studying seeds in the forest and the prairie. Groups will go on a "seed hunt" and try to classify seeds by the way they travel to start their life cycle. Each student will have the opportunity to plant a seed to take back to school to watch the life cycle unfold over time. Students can collect data and chart the growth of their plant and compare to others in their classroom.


    Water: (1 ½ hours) Students will learn about the importance of water to our planet, how water exists in different forms, and where it exists. Students will engage in hands-on activities that helps them to understand how water plays an essential role in the development of life on our planet, the health of the organisms within and ecosystem, and contributes to changes in the Earth's surface.

Third Grade

  • Tree Structure and Function: (2 ½ hours) This is the study of the structure and function of a tree. We will compare different types of tree bark, leaves and even discover what happens inside the tree. Student groups will take basic measurements on a tree and learn about a few different species. Students will use dramatization to describe the general structure of a tree and explain how different parts of the tree function. Vein patterns and shapes of leaves will be explored through leaf rubbings.

    Adaptation and Survival: (2 ½ hours) Students will study some common Kansas mammals and investigate special adaptations necessary for survival by examining furs, tracks, skulls, and scat. Students will have an opportunity to make a track mold using plaster that they may keep as a souvenir. Students will also conduct a scientific investigation by controlling variables through an insulation test. This lesson is designed to be primarily an indoor activity offered during the colder winter months.

Fourth Grade

  • Watersheds and Erosion: (2 ½ hours) Students will begin by learning about the Blue River Watershed to help them understand how watersheds function. Students will examine the movement of point and non-point source pollutants and how they affect the health of our watershed by using a watershed model. Students will manipulate the model to see how wetland and groundwater systems function within watersheds. Additionally, students will use a stream table model to learn about erosion and deposition. Finally, the students will use an interactive river model to better understand river ecology. The class ends with a short hike and visits sites on the WSC property directly related to erosion and watershed education.

Fifth Grade

  • Macro-invertebrates and Chemical Water Quality Testing : (5 hours including a 30 minute lunch) The students will learn how the sun's energy powers food chains as it moves through tropic levels. Samples will be collected from the wetland for observation and study. Students will learn the differences between autotrophs and heterotrophs as they examine and identify the producers and consumers and the interactions of these populations of organisms within the wetland ecosystem. Then students will identify and label each organism's function as a producer or consumer (carnivore, herbivore, and omnivore) in a food chain. A true picture of water quality is determined by both biological and chemical indicators. Students will test water using both indicators to calculate a water quality index and how this data contributes to healthy food webs within ecosystems.

  • Wilderness Science Center Mission Statement

    The mission of the Carolyn Ball Blair Wilderness Science Center is to provide for authentic learning experiences that will develop an understanding of and respect for preservation and change balance in natural systems, history of the land, and the impact of human intervention. 

    We believe...

    • in the preservation of the native habitat, maintaining the integrity of the land and enhancing its natural course.
    • students' interaction with the physical/natural environment will provide valuable learning experiences.
    • the Blue Valley curriculum will be enriched through directed, hands-on experiences in a natural, outdoor setting.
    • this centrally located ecosystem will be accessible to all students and patrons.
    • the preservation of this natural resource will promote community awareness and involvement in a project of mutual benefits to all.
    • this land will allow opportuntities for quiet reflection and aesthetic appreciation of the outdoors.