Sandbar School gives students hands-on lessons about river

Margaret Freeman, a fourth-grader at Quail Run School, practices the proper way of getting into and out of a canoe Monday in Burcham Park during a Sandbar School sponsored by Friends of the Kaw. The Sandbar School focuses on the importance of the Kansas River to everyday life, along with safe recreation on and near the river.

The Friends of the Kaw want to make sure kids get a good look at the Kansas River.

“We drive over it and look at it,” said Chad Lamer, the group’s president. “But here’s this wonderful opportunity for us to be out and recreate.”

The group hosted its first Sandbar School for students of two local elementary schools. New York School students received a lesson last week. And fourth-graders at Quail Run went to Burcham Park on Monday to learn about the river and get some safety tips for getting out on the water.

“We’ve been practicing how to get in and out of a canoe,” Edward Reyes, Quail Run student, said. “We’ve been talking about waste and stuff that goes into the Kansas River.”

Each student received his or her own life jacket, which they personalized with markers.

It wasn’t exactly a fashion statement for Quail Run student Hannah Thoton.

“Well, it’s something I wouldn’t wear every day,” she said.

But the students got into the safety lessons and were ready to shove off shore.

“I’ve heard the sandbars would be a lot of fun,” Edward said. “I think it would be good arm exercise to go canoeing.”

The Friends of the Kaw are hoping kids will take these lessons home and encourage their parents to take them out for some fun on the river.

“Part of our mission is to have you take ownership of (the Kaw) because it’s yours,” Lamer said.

The Sandbar School is just one way the Friends of the Kaw are trying to reach a younger crowd. The group also recently launched a “Kids 4 the Kaw” section on its Web site at