KHS Fall Field Trip to Jewell County

September 17-18

I should have posted a few weeks back on this opportunity but it came upon me a bit quick this year.  Usually the trip is held in early to mid-October.  Did you have anything to do with this change, Stan?  jk

Well, since I missed seeing you all at the KABT meeting yesterday, I figured why not post on next weeks field trip and maybe I’d have the chance to catch up there instead.  So, here goes…



The Kansas Herpetolgical Society has been holding field trip since its inception in the mid-1970’s, so I am told.  The mission of the society is, as Joe Collins states on their website:

…to encourage scholarship, research, and dissemination of scientific information through the facilities of the Society; to encourage conservation of wildlife in general and of the herpetofauna of Kansas in particular; and to achieve closer cooperation and understanding between herpetologists, so that they may work together in common cause.

Beside publishing a quarterly newsletter and then journal (see pdf archives), the society has organized a fall meeting, and a spring and fall field trip annually.  This year’s meeting will take place on November 4-6 at the Great Plains Nature Center in Wichita, KS.  A summer field trip was held for the first time in more than 15 years this year as well.  Although the society doesn’t display photos of their trips via their website, you can become a member of a related Kansas Herpetology group on Facebook that does.  Travis Taggart also maintain the wonderful KS Herp Atlas (one cool thing you can do at the site is get a current listing of herpetological taxa by county).

My Experience

I have been participating in the society since the mid-1990’s having been made aware of the society via Dr. David Edds at Emporia State University (thanks David!).  I have taken students to participate in the spring and fall field trips for over a decade now.  You can navigate to my website with pdf slideshows of our past forays.  In fact,  view at least one of these slideshows would be the best way for you to get a feel for what the trips are like.

For those of you that are now considering participation in the KS EcoMeet after yesterday’s introduction, I can say that my students have learned a lot on these trips over the years without realizing they were learning anything.  In fact, our success in winning the state competition the past two years is likely attributable their scoring so well on the herpetology taxa test.  This year’s taxa test is on birds so it won’t help as much but…

So, here is what I do every year to keep this going:

  • I edit a Field Trip Information Form that I prepared years ago for the particular county we will be traveling to.  Click on the link for the form for this year.   I also have particular district forms that need to be handed out and signed by parents as well, and have to make the district aware of the field trip since it usually is quite a distance from school and is an overnight trip as well.
  • I advertise the trip in my classes by showing pictures from a previous field trip, and hold an informational meeting generally 2-3 weeks prior to the event.  If you hold it too soon, student priorities change too much and some will drop out.  By holding it early enough though, you can have a separate meeting the week before the event to arrange whose is bring tents, etc…
  • On the day of the trip, I have students drop off their supplies before school so that I can pack the van during the day and be prepared once the school day is done to get on the road.  In more recent years, I have received permission to leave earlier in the day on those more distant trip so that we might arrive with some daylight remaining.
  • Then, the rest is all about being yourself.  If you demonstrate your passion about the outdoors, your students will behave in kind.  I have never had a bad trip (knock on wood)!

Realize that when I first began involving students in this field trip, I actually met a small number of student at the site for just the Saturday’s events.  I didn’t drive them, I didn’t have a forms, I just told them about this public event and met them there.  So, don’t feel like you have to go for three days, camp out, stay up road cruising until 2:00 am in the morning, etc… 

I’d be happy just to see you on Saturday which would be quite doable for those of you in the middle of the state for this years trip in Jewell County (north of Salina on the Nebraska border).

So, that is that.  I hope you found something that might help you lead a KHS Field Trip in the future.  If you have any questions I will respond to your comments or feel free to e-mail me at

Hope to see you in the field!








Author: Eric Kessler

I am a high school teacher in the Blue Valley School District who has taught a Bioscience Research course at the district's Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS) since 2010. Previous to this teaching gig I was at Blue Valley North High School where I taught freshman Biology and Honors Biology, Field Biology, Zoology, and AP Biology for the past 18 years.