Unless otherwise noted, information contained in each edition of the Kansas School Naturalist reflects the knowledge of the subject as of the original date of publication.

Volume 1, Number 1 - October 1954

Window Nature Study


KSN - Vol. 1, No. 1 - Window Nature Study

The cover girls for the first issue of The Kansas School Naturalist are Janet Anderson and Nancy Kreymer, pupils at Thomas W. Butcher Children's School, on teh campus of the Kansas State Teachers College of Emporia. The photographs were taken by Robert Stapleford, Science Teacher, Hoxie High School, Hoxie, Kansas.

The illustrations on pages 5, 9, and 13 were drawn by Robert F. Clarke, senior biology student at the Kansas State Teachers College of Emporia.

 PDF of Issue


Published by
The Kansas State Teachers College of Emporia
John E King, President

Prepared and Issued by
The Department of Biology, with the cooperation of the Departments of Education and Social Science

Editor: John Breukelman, Head, Department of Biology
Editorial Committee: Ina M. Borman, Helen M. Douglass, Dixon Smith, H.A. Stephens

The Kansas School Naturalist is sent upon request, free of charge to any citizen of Kansas.

The Kansas School Naturalist is published in October, December, February and April of each year by The Kansas State Teachers College, Emporia, Kansas, Application for entry as second-class matter is pending.

Front cover of issue - girls at a window



Schools differ in almost every way you can think of - cost, construction, size, age, location, landscaping - but one feature they all have is windows. These are of many types and sizes, but they all have glass, most of them can be opened, and many of them are screened. Their function is to admit light and air, but this is not all.

Windows provide excellent nature study laboratories. When the word "laboratory" is mentioned most people think of a special room filled with a lot of complicated-looking instruments, queer shaped glassware and odd specimans. But a laboratory may be quite simple, and every school room or rural has several of them. A laboratory is a place where scientific work is done, where careful observations are made, where natural things and processes are studied first hand.

Windows can he used for examining many interesting things that Nature has to offer. You may see through a window, at arm's length, a bird which would fly away if you came within 50 feet of it outdoors. You don't have to go out to collect box-elder bugs; they will come through the window to where you are.

Look at the picture on the front cover. Examine it carefully for a half minute or so. What did you see? Of course you noticed the two pupils looking at the battery jar which is serving as an aquarium, and you must have seen the windows in the next building. Did vou notice the playground equipment in the yard? The cattails in the window? The snails in the battery jar? Did you notice that the window through which you were looking was not screened but that the adjoining one was?

Now look at the picture on the back cover for a half minute. Did you notice the little pile of dirt on the window sill and ledge? How did it get there? Is there any dirt on the window pane? How did it get there? Did vou notice the wasp on the window sill? Did you notice that when you look into the room from outdoors the window is darker than its surroundings? If you Were an insect flying toward the light, in which direction would you fly through the window? Which way do you think the wasp was going?

Many Kansans will be surprised to learn that more than 300,000 acres of Kansas farmland are irrigated annually. There are 20 counties in which irrigation of more than 1000 acres occurs.


When rain hits a window, the first few drops move only a little and stop, or else move slowly downward. If a drop hits a wet track made by another drop farther down, it speeds up. It may catch the other drop aud unite with it. The new bigger drop, made up of the two previous ones, will then move much faster.

On a dirty window the drops on the way down will make little "river systems" which you can trace. The little streams make channels by washing away dirt particles. How do these channels resemble the map of a river system in a geography book?

If you watch the effect of rain on a dirty window, note the following points:

1.Is there any difference between the effect of the rain near the top and near the bottom of the window? (The top of the window might he compared to the upper part of a watershed and the bottom of the window to the lower part.)

2.Do any of the window rivers leave little piles of dirt at the bottom of the pane? (These little piles of dirt may be compared to the deltas produced at the mouths of rivers.) Examine a map of the delta of the Mississippi. How was it made? Why is a delta area usually a rich agricultural area?

3. Are these deltas larger or smaller if the window is protected by a screen?

4. Are the raindrops that hit a screened window larger or smaller than those that hit an unscreened window?

5. What difference does this make in the channels formed by the drops?

"The two windows you have studied might be compared with two kinds, of land on which rain is falling. In one kind the rain hits the earth directly as it hit the unscreened window. In the other, it is broken into small drops before it reaches the earth. That is, grass or trees can be a screen over the earth just like the screen over your window. If you remember what happens on the two kinds of windows, you know what might happen when rain hits bare earth and when it hits plant-covered earth." (Window Laboratories, Cornell Rural School Lealet, Fall, 1945.)

Try some of the following experiments:

1. With a little vaseline on a cloth, make a streak about a half inch wide down the outside on a window pane. Make other similar streaks, about an inch apart, using kerosene, glycerin, vinegar, oil, molasses, and other materials you can think of. In what ways do the raindrops behave differently on the the different steaks?

2. Make similar streaks on another pane, but have the streaks run horizontally instead of vertically. What difference does this make in the action of the raindrops?

3. On a third pane, make similar streaks, but have them running in curves, at angles, and crisscrossing each other. What kind of patterns are produced?

4. Fasten strips of adhesive tape, 1/2 or 1/4 inch wide and 5 or 6 inches long, to the outside of a window pane. Have some of them vertical, some horizontal, and some at angles. When a rian comes, what effect do the strips have on the way the window "rivers" wash down the pane? Can you see any resemblance between these strips and the terraces in a contoured filed? Which strips are like the terraces? Which part of the window pane stays moist longer, the part where the strips are vertical or where they are horizontal?

Why does a besemenet window get dirtier in the same length of tiem than an upstairs window? What is spatter erosion? Does a basement wall or foundation get dirtier next to the bare ground or next to a grassy lawn?

The windshield of your car is a type of window. Next time you are out in the car duringa rain notice the direction of water flow on teh different parts of the windshield. What is the direction fo the flow on the rear window?

diagram of tape on window

Much material and other assistance for this issue came from the second section of the 1954 Workshop in Conservation conducted by the college during June and July. This workshop was financially supported by scholarships given by The National Wildlife Federation and The Kansas Association for Wildlife. Thanks are due to these two organizations, and especially to Dr. E. Laurence Palmer, of the Federation, who took an active part in the early planning not only of this issue but of the entire publication.

The honeybee weighs about 1/300 of an ounce; how many bees are there in a three-pound swarm?

It has been estimated that about three percent of the total area of Kansas is covered with trees.


This first issue of The Kansas School Naturalist is being sent by The Kansas State Teachers College of Emporia to elementary teachers, rural school teachers, elementary supervisors, county superintendents and high school teachers of general science and biology throughout Kansas.

The Kansas School Naturalist is produced at the college by the Department of Biology with the cooperation of the Departments of Education and Social Science. According to present plans, it will be issued four times during the school year - about the first of October, December, February, and April. The editorial committee hopes that the magazine will prove valuable to teachers and pupils, members of outdoor groups, scoutmasters, camp leaders, conservation leaders, and various others who take either a serious or a casual interest in observation of nature.

It is the hope of the editorial committee that The Kansas School Naturalist may be of special help to teachers, in at least three ways. First, we hope that the information provided in the articles, tables and illustrations may be useful in teaching about Kansas and its natural interests. Second, we hope teachers will find methods, devices, activities, and tricks-of-the-trade to help them find something for students to do, as well as something to study about. And third, we hope that the magazine may serve as a clearing house for both information and activities, so that teachers may use its columns to help each other.

The Kansas School Naturalist cannot achieve its goals unless it hears from its readers. The staff can only guess as to what is most useful and interesting. The readers can do more than guess. They can use the magazine and determine for themselves that it is useful in some ways and not in others, that the language is too simple or too difficult, that the information is not readily available elsewhere or that it merely repeats what is in the textbooks, that the activities described are practical or not, and so on.

If you have criticisms or suggestions for improvement, or you have a favorite topic you would like to see developed in a future issue, write us a letter or card. Address: John Breukelman, Editor, The Kansas School Naturalist, State Teachers College, Emporia, Kansas.


Perhaps when you were a child you were told that Jack Frost came in during the night with his ice brush to paint pictures on your window pane. However they got there, soon the weather will be cold enough for frost patterns on windows. Where does the frost come from?

When you are outdoors on a cold morning you see your breath coming out in little white clouds. What are the clouds made of? Why don't you see the clouds after you enter the house or school?

If you happen to wear glasses, you have noticed that they fog over when you enter a warm room in winter. Where does the fog come from? Did you bring it with you from outdoors? Why didn't you see it on your glasses when you were out there?

In the summer when a glass of iced tea is poured, moisture immediately gathers on the outside of the glass. Where does this moisture come from? Did some of the tea soak or sweat through the glass?

What has all this to do with frost patterns? Our breath and indeed all the air about us contains water in the form of vapor. Cold air cannot hold as much water as warm air can; therefore, when air is cooled, there may be more water vapor than the cold air can hold and some of the vapor may have to leave the air. The excess vapor will be condensed into droplets of water, or if the temperature at the point of condensation is below the freezing point (32 degrees), into crystals of ice.

In winter, if the weather is cold enough to bring the temperature of the window pane below 32 F, what will happen to the vapor in the air that touches the pane? Depending on the amount of water vapor in the air, the frost pattern on the pane may be a delicate tracing or so thick as to look like a layer of snow on the glass. If you have an alcohol burner or some other source of heat, set it near a window on a day when the outdoor temperature is well below 32 F and boil some water. Is there any difference between this window and the ones where no water is being boiled?

What effect do storm windows have on frost patterns? Why? Do frost patterns form as well on double-sealed windows, such as Thermopane, as they do on ordinary single glass windows? Why or why not?

Select a place on the window on which there is a fairly thick layer of frost and hold or nickel tightly against the window for a few seconds. What happens?


A window is a fine place for an aquarium or a terrarium. These need not be fancy or expensive. Even a fruit jar or an old battery jar will do. Of course, if the glass is clear, it will be easier to see the fish and other live things in the aquarium than if it is not.

You may be puzzled about the difference between an aquarium and a terrarium. An aquarium ("aqua" - Latin for "water") is a tank, bowl or other container in which fish or other water animals and water plants are kept under somewhat natural conditions. A terrarium ("terra" - Latin for "land") is the same thing, only for land animals and plants. The term vivarium ("vivax" - Latin for "lively") is sometimes used for a place where both land and water animals are kept under natural or nearly natural conditions.

The aquarium should have an inch or two of clean sand on the bottom and should be filled with water up to an inch or so from the top. Water plants can be obtained from aquarium supply houses, pet shops, variety stores, college biology departments, and friends who have aquariums set up already; also there may be a pond or lake nearby which has suitable plants growing in it. It is more interesting to make your own collections than to buy them. Fish may also be obtained from the sources mentioned above; however, it is better to collect them from a nearby stream, pond or lake. For school purposes an aquarium is more interesting if it contains native plants and animals.

Do not put too many fish in too small a space. An old rule says it takes from 10 to 12 square inches of water surface to support one inch of fish. Thus, if your aquarium has a water surface of 6x8, or 48 square inches, this will support 4 or 5 inches of fish. It would be better to put in 4 one-inch fish than one 4-inch fish. This rule is not an exact one, because there are a lot of other conditions, but it will do for a start. Experience will show just how much the aquarium will support. Many animals other than fish may be kept in an aquarium, such as tadpoles, baby turtles, snails, diving beetles, and other water insects.

Aquarium and Terrarium

Fish may be fed commercial fish foods, bread crumbs, bits of meat, and many other things, depending on the type of fish. Do not overfeed! For 4 one-inch fish, an amount of food equal in size to the head of a match is plenty. Fish are cold-blooded animals; they do not expend much energy. If more food is supplied than the fish want, the extra food will decay and foul up the aquarium, and perhaps even kill the fish.

The terrarium needs some sand in the bottom, and a dish of water. Various animals may he collected and put in the terrarium - crickets, grasshoppers, small frogs, small lizards, baby turtles, and many others. There should be a rock or other hiding place in one corner, a branch or twig for animals that like to climb and perhaps an empty match bos or some such shelter that some of the animals may want to enter.

The animals will eat a variety of food - bits of bread, lettuce or other vegetable material, bits of meat, tiny earthworms, bits of boiled egg, pieces of apple or other fruit, bits of nut meat, cheese, and the like. Here, as in the case of the aquarium, only experinece will teach you what is best. Sometimes you may find some of your terrarium animals eating some of the others. This is of course exactly what happens under natural conditions.

Comstock, Anna Botsford. handbook of Nature-Study, Comstock Publishing Company, Inc., 1917.
Turtox Service Leaflet, General Biological Supply House, Inc., 1953, Nos. 5, 10, 11, 23. Sent free of charge to any high school science teacher.


Birds are so wary and active that it is hard to get near one outdoors unless it has been injured or trapped. But a window lets you see birds at close range.

Birds are with uS throughout the year but not always the same ones. Some such as the house sparrow, are to be found at any time of year in Kansas; most of the warblers, while not nesting in Kansas, pass through inthe spring on their way to their nesting grounds and again in the fall on their way to their winter homes; the catbird nests here although it spends its winter months far to the sonth; the juncos spend their winters here but nest farther north. Thus through the year we have a constant succession of birds to be seen.

If you have a window that looks out on a schoolyard or a homeyard with some shrubs and trees, you have an observation post from which to watch many kinds of birds and bird behavior. You should set up a bird bath and, in winter, a bird feeder. In fact, since there are many different kinds of birds, with many different kinds of food preferences, it might be well to set up several feeders. IN a school, it may be possible to organize into groups and have each group responsible for one type of bird water and feeding station.

The bird bath may be only a pan of water not more than two inches deep; an old wooden bowl is as are the concrete bowls that can be bought or home made. The bath should be on top of a post, or supported off the ground in some way to prevent cats from jumping at it.

A feeder may be a shelf attached to the outer window sill. It should have an outer wall an inch or two high, to keep food from blowing or falling off. Commercial bird foods can be bought, but bread, mixed grain, and kitchen scraps are good. Birds that are normally seed eaters prefer bread and grain, while those that feed largely on insects like suet and meat scraps. A roof may be added to the feediug shelf, to keep off the rain and snow. Once the birds get used to the feeder, the observer can watch them, and perhaps even take pictures of them.

Inviting Bird Neighbors. Cornell Rural School Leaflet, Vol. 46, Spring 1953, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York. 20 cents.

Goodrich, Arthur L., Birds in Kansas, Kansas State Board of Agriculture, Topeka, Kansas, 1945, free.

Zim, Herbert S. and Ira H. Gabrielson, Birds, Golden Nature Guides, Simon and Schuster, New York, paper $1.00, cloth $1.50.


Light and air, of course, but what e1se? A young robin flew into the room where this Was being written, looked around for a while, perched on varions things such as water pipes and blackboard moldings, and then flew out again. A few days ear1ier a young chimney swift flew into the same room.

If the window is near the ground, grasshoppers and many kinds of caterpillars may come in. No matter where it is, insects of many kinds will go in and out whenever the window is open and unscreened. Even though it is screened, some of the tiny insects can get through. If you take advantage of your window laboratory, you can sit indoors and study what comes to the window. What makes the animals come to the window? Are they seeking food, shelter or what? Are they going where it is warmer, cooler, lighter, or darker than where they are?

A window thus provides us with an insect laboratory, which can be used to study the appearance and habits of many different kinds of these crawling, running, jumping and flying creatures. A good laboratory project is to keep records of the insects that come in through the window, or in case the window is not open, of the insects that come to the window so they may be observed. Do the different kinds come at the same time of day? Does it matter whether the window is on the shady or sunny side of the building? Do some come in large numbers and others in small numbers or singly? Do they come to the top or bottom of the window? Do they leave when you approach? Do they crawl, walk, run, hop, jump, or fly?

In the fall some of these insects are looking for winter homes. Would the interior of a country school provide suitable protected winter quarters for hibernating insects?

diagram of window with where you can find bugs

Some insects have trouble adjusting themselves to man-made conditions. The cluster fly, for example, reverses itself at about 30 F. Above this temperature, the fly seeks light and avoids contact, flying about here and there, but below 50 it seeks contact and avoids light. Let us imagine a fall day with the outside temperature at 40 F. The cluster fly sees a window and flies in because from outdoors the window looks dark. (See back cover.) Once inside the fly gets into some hiding place, reacting to its normal desire for contact at lower temperatures. But it is no sooner inside and hidden than it becomes warm, since the temperature indoors is about 70 degrees. When the fly reaches a temperature of 50 it flies out through the window, because from indoors, the window seems lighter than the other parts of the room. As soon as it gets into the cold outer temperature, its own temperature begins to fall and when it reaches 50, it starts the process all over again.

In the picture on page 13 are shown some "window insects" which may be seen in Kansas. They have been chosen to represent different Orders of insects. In classifying insects, scientists have divided them into about 20 Orders, or major divisions. These are based on the kinds of wings, mouthparts, antennae, metamorphoses, and other characteristics of the insects.

Some insects grow directly from young to adult, as kittens and puppies do, while others go through a series of abrupt changes after hatching. Insects which go through the egg-larva-pupa-adult series are said to have complete metamorphosis. Thus the moth egg hatches into a worm-like caterpillar (larva), which spins a cocoon about itself when it becomes a pupa, and emerges from the cocoon as an adult.

One of the most interesting observations of insect life is to see butterflies or moths emerging from the pupa state. Pupae (cocoons) can be collected during the fall and winter months. If you have a screened window, with the screen outside of the window, the space between the window and the screen is a good place to keep the cocoons you collect. Here they will remain at normal winter temperatures until the normal time for the adult to emerge. The cocoons may be suspended on the screen or simply laid on the window sill between the window and the screen. When the moths or butterflies emerge they will be unable to escape from your window laboratory.

Most of the insects selected for pages 13 to 15 are beneficial, at least in part. So much is said about insect pests and so little about beneficial ones, that in this issue of The Kansas School Naturalist we decided to even things up by choosing mostly useful insects.

Because of the small amount of space, the descriptions and discussions on pages 14 and 15 are shorter than we would like to have them. You can consult reference books and make up a table that will include other information, and you can include other insects that come to your windows.

Kansas has at least 58 Spring Creeks, 30 Rock Creeks, 24 Sand Creeks, and 16 Salt Creeks.


Mantid, Praying Mantis


Stagomantis carolina

RELATIONSHIPS Order Orthopetera, insects with front wings straight and leathery. Grasshoppers, crickets, locusts, katydids, roaches and walking sticks belong to this order.
DESCRIPTION About 2 inches long, gray to green, forelegs used for grasping and held "as if in prayer." Head is freely movable on neck, an unusual feature among insects.
On shrubbery and weeds in gardens and fields, throughout Kansas.
Eggs laid in fall, in froth covered masses, on weeds or branches; hatch in late spring into young that resemble adults, except for the lack of wings. Adult stage reached in late summer.
Feed almost entirely on other insects, which are held by the forelegs and eaten at leisure.
SIGNIFICANCE TO MAN Eat flies, grasshoppers and garden insects. Some large species placed in gardens for insect control. Egg masses are sometimes sold for starting new colonies.



Box Elder Bug


Leptocoris trivitattus

RELATIONSHIPS Order Hemiptera, or "true bugs," with overlapping front wings. The squash bug is closely related to the box elder bug.
DESCRIPTION About 1/2 inch long, brownish black with 3 red stripes on thorax, red veins in wings and the abdomen red under the wings. Flat, oval in general outline.
Around maple, ash, and box elder trees, buildings, rock piles, throughout Kansas, but more common in Eastern part of the state.
Adults lay eggs in early spring; eggs hatch into red nymphs; after several molts these become adults in about 60 days. Second brood in July. Adults hibernate in old buildings, rock piles, in clay banks, and the like.
Feed on seeds and juices of maple, box elder and related trees, grasses, weeds, and fruits. Somewhat cannabilistic.
SIGNIFICANCE TO MAN May be a nuisance about homes; does some damage to strawberries. Birds do no eat them, perhaps because of the odor when the bugs are crushed.





Chrysopa plorabunda

RELATIONSHIPS Order Neuroptera, insects with broad but delicate wings with many cross veins, giving a lacey effect. Larvae of many species are called ant lions.
DESCRIPTION About 1/2 to 3/4 inch long, wholly green except red or ivory markings on head and thorax, with golden eyes.
Fields and gardens, open woods, around buildings, throughout Kansas.
Adults life through the winter, lay eggs on leaves and twigs. Hatch in 10 days into larvae, which becomes pupae and spin cocoons. Adults emerge in about 2 weeks, and live about a month, except for those in the last brood, which live through the winter.
Both adults and larvae live predominantly on other insects. Larvae partly cannabilistic.
SIGNIFICANCE TO MAN Important in control of garden insects, such as scale insects, plant lice, and mealy bugs; also eat plant-feeding mites.


COMMON NAME Isabella Tiger Moth Wooly Bear
RELATIONSHIPS Order Lepidoptera, having wings with tiny scales that rub off as powder when the insects are handled. Moths, skippers and butterflies comprise this order.
DESCRIPTION Moth: front wings gray with black spots, hind wings more orange; 3 rows of spots on abdomen. Larva: the familiar "wooly bear" caterpillar with black ends and red in middle; hairy, about 1 1/2 inch long.
WHERE FOUND On plants and on ground in garden and fields throughout Kansas.
LIFE HISTORY The wooly bear is abundant in the fall; this species lives through the winter in the larva stage and becomes a pupa in spring. Adults emerge in May; during summer they lay eggs on plants.
FOOD HABITS Larvae feed on grass, clover, dandelions, and other field and garden plants. Not much known about feeding habits of adults, except that they take nectar from flowers.
SIGNIFICANCE TO MAN  The wooly bear occasionally eats cultivated plants, but it also feeds on many weeds. Adults are of value in pollination of plants, as is common with moths and butterflies.


COMMON NAME Ladybird, Lady Beetle 
SCIENTIFIC NAME Hippodamia convergens
RELATIONSHIPS Order Coleoptera, or beetles, with upper wings in the form of hard shields. About 100 species of lady beetles in North America; about a dozen in Kansas.
DESCRIPTION About 1/4 inch long, head and thorax black with yellow marks, upper wings (sheaths) orange with 6 black spots on each.
WHERE FOUND In gardens and fields, near buildings, throughout Kansas.
LIFE HISTORY Adults live through winter, lay eggs in spring, on plants. Larvae and pupae remain on plants until adult stage is reached, a period of about a month. Adults hibernate in protected places or underground.
FOOD HABITS Both larvae and adults feed on other insects, their eggs and larval stages - e.g., they eat plant lice, potato beetle eggs, and both young and adult chinch bugs.
SIGNIFICANCE TO MAN Important in control of plant lice, potato beetles, thrips, alfalfa weevils, chinch bugs, scale insects and many others. One of the most beneficial of all Kansas insects.


SCIENTIFIC NAME Pollenia rudis
RELATIONSHIPS Order Diptera, insects with only 2 wings instead of the usual 4, includes flies, midges and mosquitoes. Blowflies are near relatives.
DESCRIPTION Slightly larger and more sluggish than house flies, body 3/8 inch long. Thorax dark and wooly, abdomen brown with gray or white spots.
WHERE FOUND At windows and on sunny side of buildings in spring and fall.
LIFE HISTORY Adults live through winter, lay eggs in soil. Eggs hatch in 5 days into maggots, which live as parasites in earthworms. Pupae live in soil about a month, then become adults. Hibernate in old buildings and trash piles.
FOOD HABITS Larvae live as parasites on earthworms. Adults live on a variety of organic material ranging from pollen to decaying matter.
SIGNIFICANCE TO MAN Annoying as house flies in fall when seeking hibernation places; destroy beneficial earthworms. Birds feed on them to some extent.


SCIENTIFIC NAME Polistes fuscatus
RELATIONSHIPS Order Hymenoptera, insects with membranous wings, the back ones hooked to the front ones. Ants and bees are in this order. The hornet is a near relative of the paper wasp.
DESCRIPTION Body about 3/4 inch long, largely black with yellow or reddish bands, abdomen separated from thorax by a constriction.
WHERE FOUND Fields, gardens, woods, and buildings, throughout Kansas.
LIFE HISTORY Adults live through winter and in spring lay eggs in cells of "paper" nests. Fertilized eggs hatch into females or queens, depending on food. After eggs, larvae are fed daily by the workers. Unfertilized eggs hatch into drones (males).
FOOD HABITS Feed largely on caterpillars such as the corn ear worm and the army worm.
SIGNIFICANCE TO MAN Eats destructive insects, but also stings when bothered. Benefits resulting from its food habits far outweigh the occasional sting we get from it.


back cover - girls at a window taken from outside

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