Outdoor Wildlife Learning Sites Information & Application
What is an OWLS?
OWLS is an acronym for Outdoor Wildlife Learning Sites. It is a Program sponsored by the Chickadee Checkoff of the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism. An OWLS is an outdoor environmental/wildlife laboratory, at or near a school, consisting of one or more native habitat features. It is designed to attract native wildlife and to facilitate multi-discipline learning opportunities for students. The program involves several agencies and organizations interested in conservation education. An OWLS grant provides $2,000 for developing initial features.
Who is Eligible?
Any school is eligible for an OWLS grant. A teacher or administrator of a school may fill out this application and send it to the address listed at the bottom of the application web page. Priority will be given to schools that can create or use existing wet areas such as a small pool, stream, pond or marsh. Additionally, emphasis will be given to OWLS which have several cooperating agencies or organizations and opportunities for other school or institutional uses.
Why Do We Need OWLS?
Each new generation eventually assumes responsibility for our environment. To help prepare children, it is necessary to emphasize educational programs that deal with ecology and wildlife. It is well established that "hands on" activities greatly enhance a student's ability to understand concepts and facts. One of the best ways to accommodate this is to provide natural environments at or near school property. Outdoor learning laboratories have been developed and used successfully for years by some schools. OWLS is designed to help stimulate more learning.
An OWLS can be as simple as a few demonstration plots of native grasses and wildflowers and a small frog pool along an edge of the schoolgrounds, or as complex as several acres of woodlands with ponds and a stream. Features may include butterfly/hummingbird gardens, wetlands, nature trails, bird and other animal feeding stations, native prairie grass demonstration and study plots, xeriscape demonstration sites and weather stations. Most OWLS will have some trees and shrubs specifically selected to attract certain wildlife species, such as songbirds.
OWLS School Committee
As soon as you can, organize an OWLS committee for your school. This group should be composed of, at minimum, two teachers, one administrator, one maintenance person, two students and one parent. The first business this committee should do is to select a project director. The project director will be in charge of sending the proposal to the OWLS coordinator when it is ready. The OWLS committee is the engine behind each OWLS area and will be the guiding organization for not only preparation of the OWLS proposal but also the soliciting of community involvement and support. For technical assistance, the OWLS committee should identify local natural resource professionals, such as the district biologist for KDWPT, the district conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the county extension agent, and others.