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 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.

OWLS Features?

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.

 OWLS Procedures:

  • Download the OWLS Guidelines for the KDWPT website.
  • School forms an OWLS committee and selects an OWLS project director.
  • Project director contacts KDWPT district biologist for guidance.
  • School OWLS committee prepares grant proposal with assistance of district biologist and other resource persons.
  • Project director sends grant proposal to OWLS coordinator for review.
  • OWLS coordinator forwards proposal to OWLS office, or returns proposal to project director for further refinement. OWLS office approves proposal.
  • Grant contract is sent to project director.
  • Project director returns signed grant contract to OWLS office.
  • Check is sent to school.
  • School begins project work.