I was one of those strange children who loved school and was always excited when it was time to start a new school year. Now I am one of those strange adults who are still eager for the beginning of the school year.

As the manager of Educational Outreach at Lee Richardson Zoo, it is my job to take animals and biofacts out into the community and give presentations. While we offer programs to any group who requests them (senior homes and public events are regular destinations), school children represent my largest audience. As teachers return to work and begin looking at the year ahead, I eagerly await the phone calls and emails which signal the beginning of another year of hands-on learning fun.

This year I am particularly excited to introduce people to our most recent addition to the education division, Bowie the barn owl. Barn owls are a common sight in Garden City as well as worldwide. These unique-looking predators have a negative reputation in some parts of the world due to their eerie calls and large white "ghostly" faces but they can be a huge help when it comes to keeping rodent populations in control.

Bowie came to us from a rehabilitation center in Junction City, where he was raised by hand after he and his siblings were brought in by someone who thought they had been abandoned. He is 2 months old, fully flighted and full of personality. Once he finishes his 30 days in quarantine (away from other animals) he will be ready to join our programs to help spread appreciation for wildlife throughout the community.

Lee Richardson Zoo offers a variety of programs to the public including zoomobiles in which we take animals and biofacts to your location, on-site programs for field trips or other visiting groups, and distance learning programs for audiences who are too far away to meet in person.

All of our programs are tailored to meet the needs of each group we talk to. We have school programs aligned to Kansas and national education standards, as well as casual programs for families or adult audiences. The best part is that we are able to offer most of our programs free of charge due to the incredible support we receive from the community.

If you are interested in a program from the zoo, whether it is for your family or to supplement curriculum in your classroom, call the education division at 276-1250 or email zoo.education@gardencityks.us. I am excited to meet a new group of students and to introduce everyone to the wonder and excitement of nature and wildlife. I hope to hear from you soon!