Kansas Kaleidoscope - April/May 2001
(Volume 4, Number 5)
A fun magazine for kids!
Oh, Give Me a Home Where the Buffalo Roam: The story of life on the Kansas Prairie
Kansas: A Land of Contrasts
Kansas is part of the immense grassland bioregion that stratches from Canada almost to Mexico. It is also a land of great diversity, both in its climate and its land. Our seasons bring drastic changes in temperature, from well below zero to more than 100 degrees.
A Garden in the Grassland
When pioneers first traveled through the area we know as Kansas, many were greatly disappointed. Having traveled from the East, where forests were plentiful, many people believed that the grasslands of Kansas, which stretched as far as the eye could see, were wastelands. An early explorer, Stephen Long, even came up with the name "The Great American Desert" for the great plains.
For as much grass as we may see on the surface, almost 90 percent of the prairie grass is underground!
Kansas: Believe it or Not!
Kansans didn't invent the tall tale, but from the beginning Kansas farmers entertained their friends back East with fanciful bragging. They believed Kansas was one of the best places to grow crops. "Corn as big as man's arm," and "watermelon the size of wagon wheels," were some of the sayings that coaxed even more people to move out to Kansas.
Building Houses in Kansas Could be a Dirty Job
Some ingenious Kansans found other uses for this dense, root-packed soil besides growing crops. They built houses out of it! Since trees were scarce in the grasslands, there was not much lumber with which to build houses. People realized they could cut the soil into bricks, which stay together because of the dense roots.
Why No Trees?
Why didn't Kansas have many trees long ago? Little rain and strong winds were major factors of the prairie's landscape. Winds promote evaporation, which reduces the humidity that is essential for trees. High winds also weaken tree saplings and prevent them from competing with the grasses that are anchored by deep roots.
Kansas Grows Wild
More than 2,000 varieties of plants grow wild in Kansas including our state flower, the sunflower. Many plants, such as the purple coneflower (or Echinacea), can be useful as medicines.
Because of the strong winds that blew across the open prairies, settlers often planted hedgerows around their homes to provide a windbreak.
Isn't that Spect-OAK-ular?
Council Grove's "Post Office Oak," so-named because early-day trail travelers left letters in the hollow of the tree, is listed in the American Forestry Association's Hall of Fame.
Bisons, Bobcats, and Bears, Oh My!
There are many animals that call Kansas home and live here in large numbers including white-tail deer, coyotes, red foxes, and even bobcats.
The lakes, streams, rivers and reservoirs of Kansas are home to many species of fish.
While it may sound like a lot of fun to go tromping off in search of plants and animals, there are some important things to remember.
Fly the Prairie Skies!
Kansas is a great place to learn about birds. Amazingly, more than half of the 650 bird species can be spotted living in or migrating through Kansas because of our central location.
Great Grazing Grasshoppers!
While it is true that insects can often be seen as pests, many have important jobs to do. Many flying insects, such as the honeybee, are useful in helping plants to grow.
A Chilling Thought!
What would happen to all plant life on our planet if the Sun was turned off for just ten minutes? Food production would stop and within approximately eight minutes all light would be eliminated from the earth and the planet would freeze.
In This Issue:
- Quiz Kaleidoscope
- Where in Kansas Are You?
- For Parents and Teachers
- For Further Reading
- Letters to the Editor
- Visit History: The Rolling Hills Refuge Park
- A Kansan You Should Know: Prairie Dog
- Answers to Puzzles
- Kaleidoscope Challenge
- Be a Winner!
- Feathered Friends Word Scramble
- Snakes Alive!