Many Kansas teachers have a classroom set. Scout leaders and park naturalists rely on them in the field. Serving thousands of readers (from elementary children to the homebound elderly looking out the window at their birdfeeders), the 16-page Kansas School Naturalist continues to provide Kansans with an accurate and high-interest resource about the natural world.
The issue just mailed describes "sericea lespedeza," the bush clover invading westward across Kansas. Since grazing animals avoid it, sericea is taking over pastures. This issue describes how to distinguish it from the other Kansas bush clovers and provides maps and control measures. And the KSN is completely free.
How can a publication operating in the public good (185 titles and over a million copies sent) be free? The only costs are printing and mailing. Authors contribute their time. While there is a small university allocation, enough to print one issue a year, the cost of mailing that issue and printing others is now mostly supported by contributions from readers, from professional societies and agencies for specific issues, and from foundation grants. By staying a simple operation and working "in the public good," the KSN is delivered to the desks of teachers and other readers very economically.
Similar publications moved off of this delivery system in an era that believed everything should be privatized. They either went online-only or charged subscriptions—and disappeared.
The Kansas School Naturalist is available online at www.emporia.edu/ksn/. But KSNs are mostly laboratory and field guides for use away from computer terminals. Printing offline results in a poor quality copy compared with high-resolution printing. We do provide supplementary teaching materials (and translations in Spanish and Chinese for some issues) online. But most KSN website hits result in requests for printed copies. Publications that switch to online-only often lose readership, are no longer available by interlibrary loan, are no longer archived, and completely disappear at a rate of ten percent every 15 months.
Moving to paid subscriptions dramatically increases costs, requiring a secretary to keep records and mail expiration notices to subscribers. The Journal of Outdoor Education moved to paid subscriptions, and died. A private market model is too expensive and just not economical for a non-commercial service operating in the public good.
The Kansas School Naturalist began publication in 1954, modeled after famous Cornell Science Leaflets (now also gone) that spurred many youngsters into science careers. For many who question: "Why are so few youngsters going into sciences today?", some of the answer may be that far fewer quality natural history publications are making it into the hands of today’s children.
The KSN relies on world experts to author issues. The world head of virus taxonomy co-authored the virus classification issue, a world authority on tardigrades wrote that issue, and the world’s expert on springtails authored the springtail issue. The KSN also serves one function of a biological survey: we publish checklists by authorities. While a kindergarten teacher can use the pictures in the "Checklist of Kansas Butterflies" to help a child identify an insect, that same issue is also valuable to graduate researchers.
If you normally received the KSN but did not receive the sericea lespedeza issue, be sure to re-subscribe. Due to new postal regulations, over 1700 addresses had to be dropped in our last mailing because they were old "rural routes" and not new rural street numbers.
The following Kansas School Naturalists are still available free upon request: Making an Insect
Collection, Pseudoscience of Animals and Plants, Scientific/Common Names, Butterflies of KS, Bone Names, Muscle Names, Springtails, Prairie Fires, Ants of KS, Yucca Plant/Yucca Moth, Backyard Birds, Animals in Succession, Dragonflies of KS, Tardigrades, Damselflies of KS, Greater Prairie Chicken, Feral Pigeons, Centipedes and Millipedes, Carpenter Ants, Freshwater Mussels, Virus Classification, Toxicology, Stream Ecology, Permian Fossils of Elmo KS, Orb-Weaving Spiders, Crab Spiders, Jumping Spiders, Ground Spiders, and Sericea Lespedeza.
To subscribe free or request back issues, send to: Kansas School Naturalist, Department of Biological Sciences, Box 4050, Emporia State University, Emporia, KS 66801.
John Richard Schrock is editor of the Kansas School Naturalist