Science-Themed Summer Field Trips

As a parent, keeping your kids amused all summer long can be a challenge. Eventually, Minecraft gets boring, swimmer’s ear sets in and the neighborhood kids can’t stand the sight of each other. Then what? 

We have some suggestions to help dust the cobwebs off those little brains and sneak in some learning disguised as fun. According to the National Summer Learning Association, “All young people experience learning losses when they do not engage in educational activities during the summer.” Fortunately, Kansas City is full of great educational opportunities. Here are just a few suggestions for science-themed summer field trips you won’t want to miss.

Powell Gardens - Festival of the Butterflies

This summer is the 20th anniversary of Powell Gardens' Festival of Butterflies, the largest butterfly festival in the United States. See hundreds of native and international butterflies and moths, including the most unique, rare and bizarre creatures of the chrysalis. Experts will be on hand to educate visitors about Monarch butterflies’ migratory habits and conservation efforts for this threatened species. Also learn about pollination and what to plant in your yard so that you can have butterflies too! 
“This is a great opportunity to learn about metamorphosis through close encounters with caterpillars and butterflies. It is such a marvelous transformation—to watch the caterpillars emerge from their chrysalis,” says Alan Branhagen, director of horticulture at Powell Gardens. To see a full schedule of events for the Festival of Butterflies, go to

Science City at Union Station 

Science City has been entertaining and educating KC’s children for the past 16 years, and in early June, they will be unveiling a brand new exhibit designed to help children understand Sir Issac Newton’s laws of motion through five unique, interactive activities.
No matter what your young scientist is interested in, Science City has you covered. Explore exhibits dealing with dinosaurs, the chemistry of cooking, energy, water and genetics, just to name a few! Daily science activities centered on weekly themes ensure visitors always encounter something new. Science City has fantastic programming planned all summer long, so be sure to check their events calendar:

Ernie Miller Nature Center

Let’s face it. Sometimes, our kids need a little push to get outside, get active and explore. When the backyard no longer captures the imagination of your young ones, consider visiting the Ernie Miller Nature Center. This JCPRD gem offers environmental education through programming, special events, nature displays and acres of trails for hiking and biking. This June, the nature center is unveiling a brand new gallery titled “Our Changing Landscape.” It will feature interactive exhibits with live animals, a water table and hands-on activities for kids of all ages.
On Friday evenings during the summer, the nature center hosts family-friendly amphitheater programs on a wide variety of topics about nature and wildlife. Check out their summer calendar for detailed information on these programs and other learning opportunities throughout the summer:
According to Oxford Learning (, students need two to three hours per week of learning to avoid summer learning loss. The statistics are compelling, but thankfully we live in a city rich in learning opportunities for our kids.  This is just a small sampling of the multitude of science-related attractions available in Kansas City to keep your kids challenged and engaged this summer. So turn off the XBox and load up the car! Discoveries are waiting to be made! 

Other Science Smart Ideas for Summer Outings

  • KC Zoo—the Science Adventure Club for children ages 3-5
  • The Sportslab at Arrowhead Stadium
  • Arvin Gottlieb Planetarium
  • Overland Park Arboretum
  • SeaLife Aquarium
  • Cedar Cove Feline Conservatory and Education Center

Erin Jones works at the Kansas City Art Institute and is also a freelance writer and portrait photographer. She is currently working on her first book - part memoir and part single parenting survival guide.

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