GREENBUSH - The Southeast Kansas Education Service Center, aka Greenbush, is preparing for a busy spring season, and some renovations of the simulated rainforest area are part of the process of keeping the Greenbush Science Center ready for learning.
The rainforest is one of many areas in which children and children at heart have the opportunity to learn more about the world around them through school or summer programs.
The rainforest originally was built in 1996 and planted with mature plants.
“Most of the plants brought in were large,” said Lisa Blair, director of student instruction. “In that time we’ve replanted once.”
The facility is computerized and climate-controlled, keeping it warm and humid even on chilly, gray days. This also prevents it from having a true dormant season.
“Because this is a climate-controlled facility, it is not as dormant as in a traditional facility,” Blair said.
But, it still requires some periodic work, and the plan is for that to be done from the dome to the dirt.
Blair said the first step will include putting in a new canopy cloth, and employees then will be working with plants and finish with soil work.
It all is part of offering a memorable education experience for those who visit.
“The kids that we started with years ago are now coming back through as classroom teachers,” Blair sad.
When students attend, Blair said they are there to learn, and two types of programs are regularly run through the rainforest facility, including diversity of the rainforest environment programs, which also include animals, and plant programs.
“They have tasks when they come out here,” Blair said. “It’s a day of pretty intense learning when they’re here.”
She said the youngest of students have to hypothesize why plants have the tips they do and how those work with the function of each plant.
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“We want the kids to understand the characteristics and structure of the plant,” she said.
Older students will use shoe polish to collect the patterns of stomates, or part of the plants’ breathing systems, from the underside of plant leaves and then will create slides.
“That’s when the kids get to go in and look at the stomate structure under the microscope,” Blair said.
Blair and communication coordinator Courtney Uebinger said they also try to make visits fun for students by incorporating a CD with rainforest sounds and activating the fog system when able.
Children also learn about rainforest wildlife, although the hissing cockroaches, ball pythons, sugar gliders and tarantulas are not left to roam on their own. Instead, they can be viewed inside the science center, where they are well-taken care of and well-supervised.
The facility also may be toured by members of the public.
“People, when they drive by Greenbush, will stop and ask for a tour,” Uebinger said, adding that they are always willing to do so.
Additionally, they said they have hosted retirement homes, clubs and others.
Blair said the remainder of the spring will be busy with students visiting, and shortly after that summer camps will begin. A list of camps will be posted on the center’s Web site on April 1.
Blair said she has been at Greenbush for almost 25 years and thoroughly enjoys watching students arrive excited, enjoy their learning and leave excited about science.
“It’s great,” she said. “We tell people we have one of the best jobs.”