MANHATTAN, Kan. –Seven KSU students are completing a three-week summer intersession course, Environmental Leadership, at Sunset Zoo this week by engaging in hands-on service-learning. The undergraduates are constructing a portion of the outdoor Nature Play Space that is part of the new Nature Exploration Center at the Zoo’s entryway. The play space features a rain garden and eco-friendly playground equipment aimed at teaching youth ways to address water resource issues.
Robin Kleine, KSU senior in Agricultural Communications & Journalism and Animal Sciences & Industry with a minor in Leadership Studies said, “The class helped me think of simple and environmentally friendly ways to improve my living spaces while gaining awareness of water quality issues facing Kansas residents. It was a great team building experience and exciting to see the project come together.”
The project is a collaboration between K-State’s Center for Engagement and Community Development, School of Leadership Studies (SLS), Department of Communications & Agricultural Education, Research & Extension’s Kansas Environmental Leadership Program (KELP) and Manhattan’s Sunset Zoo. The project is funded through a $114,000 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture and inspired by KELP.
K-State’s Dr. Lauri Baker, Agricultural Communications; Lori Kniffin, SLS; and Brandi Nelson, KELP, are working with Zoo staff to instruct the students. Through the course, students are learning about local environmental issues and practicing the leadership skills needed to address these issues through a service-learning project. During the first week, students were in the classroom learning a variety of topics including: leadership theory, public advocacy, environmental law and water issues. The last two weeks of the course have been spent at the Zoo working on the play space. On the final day students will present their reflections on the experience.
The Nature Play Space is part of the Zoo’s new entryway and education facility, the Nature Exploration Center, and will be utilized primarily on weekdays in conjunction with the Center’s Early Childhood Classroom. This space will greatly enhance the Zoo’s education programming that works to inspire a passion for a nature at an early age.
The public can view the Nature Play Space during the Public Grand Opening of the Nature Exploration Center on Sunday, June 3 from Noon – 4:30pm. The play space will initially be open in conjunction with the Zoo’s early childhood programs. Zoo staff are currently working to identify additional times the public will have access to the new space.
For more information about the Nature Exploration Center or Sunset Zoo, visit SunsetZoo.com or 785-587-APES. For more information about the Kansas Environmental Leadership Program visit: www.ksre.ksu.edu/kelp .