Konza Environmental Education Program
The Konza Environmental Education Program (KEEP) was established in 1996. Its mission is to:
- enhance the understanding of the ecology of the tallgrass prairie ecosystem;
- increase understanding of the process and value of science; and
- increase public appreciation for the importance of scientific research as a foundation for sound grassland conservation and management.
KEEP is headquartered at Konza Prairie Biological Station (KPBS). Located in the Flint Hills of northeastern Kansas, approximately six miles south of the City of Manhattan, KPBS is an 8,600-acre native tallgrass prairie preserve owned by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and Kansas State University (KSU). Operated as a field research station by the K-State Division of Biology, Konza Prairie is dedicated to a three-fold mission of long-term ecological research, education, and prairie conservation.
KEEP provides on-site programming to K-12, youth and adult groups. Since its inception, KEEP has served hundreds of community members and volunteers, dozens of classroom educators and thousands of school children by providing public programs, docent training, professional development workshops, science education, and field trips.
KEEP offers curriculum-based activities that cover a wide range of topics in science, mathematics and social studies. Trail hikes and ecological research activities are offered as part of the experience of knowing the tallgrass prairie ecosystem and understanding the information that long-term ecological research provides. Ecological processes, natural history, and prairie management by fire and grazing are emphasized.
Some of KEEP's current projects include:
- Docent Program - ecosystem and education training for community volunteers who become active through service projects and as program guides;
- Teachers' Workshops - professional development for science and math teachers, grades 5-12, to incorporate ecological research and data collection into the classroom curriculum in conjunction with science education standards;
- Schoolyard Long-term Ecological Research (SLTER) - student participation in long-term research and data collection on Konza Prairie (partially funded through National Science Foundation LTER);
- Science Adventures on Konza Prairie - web resource for students featuring prairie ecology, ecological research projects and student-generated databases;
- Prairies Across Kansas - expansion of KEEP SLTER to teachers and students across the state who would not be able to visit Konza Prairie due to distance or cost.
Public programs offered include:
- Greater Prairie Chicken viewing - March through April, view their dramatic booming and courtship behavior from a small blind;
- Friends of Konza Prairie Wildflower Walk - annually in June, experience over 50 native species in bloom within a one-mile walk;
- Konza Prairie Visitors' Day - biennially in September (even years), a free event open to the public, showcasing Konza Prairie research and education projects and tallgrass prairie natural history.
The Konza Environmental Education Program is committed to providing Kansas communities with quality environmental education opportunities centered on prairie ecology and long-term ecological research. Sustained largely through grants, KEEP employs one part-time and one full-time environmental educator and relies on trained volunteers (docents) to assist with its environmental education programs.