Kansas has some incredible geology, natural history, and other science related museums and nature reserves to visit. I really had fun preparing this part of the list and am looking forward to visiting many of these wonderful places. It was a bit difficult to choose having not gone to many of these myself so they represent more a wish list than a review.
Whenever people think of Kansas they tend to think of it as flat. While that’s true, there is much variety to offer anyone willing to travel off the beaten path. The homeschooler who wants to learn about the natural world will not be disappointed. Your aspiring paleontologist, astronomer, or cartographer will be simply overjoyed!
Science Field Trips for Kansas
This trip is an absolute must for any homeschooler. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to enjoy your visit here. The museum section has U.S. and Russian space artifacts, the worlds largest collection of space suits, a spy plane, an astronaut training jet, the real Apollo 13 command module, and a full scale shuttle replica. The Space Center offer several homeschool field trip programs to choose from. All you need do is enroll in the one you want! And consider a camp for your aspiring astronaut too! Seeing how much Kansas has to offer in the way of space study and aviation really makes me want to do some astronomy this year in our homeschool so I’m sure I’ll be fitting that in somehow!
If you want to cover health and life sciences this year Kansas Learning Center for Health would totally fit the bill. The center seems very child/student oriented and has much to offer including a full size transparent human model known as Vadela. Kids can view Vadela and hear her describe the various body systems as they light up. You can visit on your own or sign up for one of the field trips programs they offer.
It wouldn’t be a complete picture of Kansas without seeing “where the buffalo roam”. John Gault Maxwell envisioned a place where the prairie would be preserved for future generations to see. His friends made that a reality and now visitors can either drive through on their own or take a tram ride through the park to view the buffalo and other wildlife. There are currently about 160 buffalo and 80 elk amid many other prairie species.
This is a National Park where the tall grass still grows. Located there is a historic 1881 ranch house with a barn which you can visit yourself or if you contact them in advance there are guided field trips as well.
The rock formations found in this state park make you ask the question, “How were these formed?” Composed of sandstone and sedimentary rock the softer sandstone on the lower layer of this rock eroded first creating rocks that look like mushrooms.
Over 200 spherical rocks in this “city” just south of Minneapolis. The park is open May-September and would be a great place for kids to get out do some climbing and appreciate this curious outdoor natural collection. Does your child have a passion for collecting rocks? Combine this field trip with this wonderful free unit: Rocks in His Head from Homeschool Share.
32. Castle Rock / Monument Rock : Grove County
These natural rock formations from ancient chalk beds are a natural landmark for Kansas. Very beautiful, these rocks have produced significant fossils. One well known fossil, fish with in a fish, can be seen at the Sternberg Museum of Natural History (see more below) in Hays. The Keystone Gallery has a collection of the local Kansas Cretaceous period fossils. Another small but interesting sounding museum with fossils is the Fick Fossil Museum in Oakley which has a large collection of fossils and minerals plus an extensive folk art collection made from thousands of shark teeth fossils found and then created by Viola and Earnest Fick for whom the museum is named.
Enjoy this beautiful drive and discuss the pioneers and how they used limestone as fence posts. Yes. They used limestone. This had to be hard labor but it was a resource that was in ample supply where lumber was not. This is an 18 mile byway that goes through the smoky hills. There are some scenic overlooks. There is also the Native Stone Scenic Byway in which you can see what remains of the pioneer built limestone fences. Echo Cliff Park nearby is another scenic place to visit.
Here you go 650 feet below the ground to explore an underground museum detailing the salt mining industry and the geological lessons of the area. If your kids are adventurous they are sure to enjoy being underground for a train ride to see the salt mines as they were 50 years ago. Find out what the miner were like and what they did?
*Book recommendations for this trip: Pocket Genius: Rocks and Minerals and why not incorporate a little history study with The Story of Salt. For literature Miss Bianca in the Salt Mines sounds like a perfect fit.
This small museum has a large collection of Brenham Meteorites. It’s the perfect Kansas field trip for your astronomy course or unit. If you wish to learn more about how to identify meteors this would be a fantastic place to begin.
*Unit study recommendation: Call me Ahnighito Free Unit Study from Homeschool Share.
This museum looks like it would be so very fun to visit. It has a hands on Discovery Room for kids, live exhibits and an extensive collection ( about 3 million specimens!) of species exhibits to include specimens from the Earth Sciences as well as Zoology. In addition, the Kansas Wetlands Education Center also looks interesting for study of the wetlands of Kansas and they have some great education programs they offer. They are located in Great Bend south of Chyenne Bottoms Wildlife Refuge.
Studying geography? Well look no further. The exact geographic center of the United States is, that’s right, in Kansas. It is located a mile north of Lebanon. This spot was designated as the center of the U. S. by the Coast and geodetic Survey in 1898. There is a monument there. Since Alaska and Hawaii joined the union other locations has been designated as well.
Study entomology and look at tons of bugs. Take a tour of Kansas State University’s Insect Zoo. Or check out many other Kansas State University programs and tours. You need to call ahead to schedule.
Kansas has had great influence and contribution to aviation. I didn’t know that until I moved here. The Boeing: Science, Math and Learning Center here sounds like a great place to spend your whole homeschool day, exploring and doing your studies in a room designed just for that! With several prepared education programs as well this seems like a wonderful resource for any homeschool family interested in flight.
Find out how and why ranchers set the hills on fire! And discover the cowboys, Indians and railroad too! My son’s favorite part of this field trip was reading all the wonderfully interactive trivia questions and seeing if he could answer them correctly. Very child friendly and lots of visually appealing displays.
Another great geography point to visit where you can see from the Glacial Hills all at once the states of Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri and Iowa while seeing a spectacular view of the Missouri River. This would be a great visit for any Lewis and Clark study.
If you’re in the southernmost part of the state these scenic hills, mesas and buttes would make a great geology/geography study. The red color in these hills is created by the gypsum. There are a few of the museums featured in this series along the way and, of course, also many natural places to visit. The drive is around 40 miles long from beginning to end.
If you want to do some nature hiking Konza Prairie Trails sound like they will meet your nature study needs. There are a few different loops to choose from that you can hike on your own. But if your looking for a more guided experience they also have a few very fun sounding volunteer led programs such as systematically catching prairie grasshoppers or wadding the creek to collect insects, identify them and then find out what they tell us about the importance of clean water.
This nature center is one we’ll be sure to visit. Lots of hands on exploration makes for a nice afternoon where we can pick up a few great new pieces of knowledge. There are several free programs/tours that they offer to bring nature up close. It will add that extra amount of learning you’d like to give your child at home when you just don’t have the time to put together a nature unit. In the spring months you can also arrange a tour of the fish hatchery. Milford Lake itself is also a wonderful place to to fish, boat, camp, hike, or have a picnic.
Another State park to mention is Tuttle Creek Lake. This park also meets your needs for camping, fishing, hiking, and more. See a listing of all the Kansas State Parks to find one near you that will have everything you need for your family visit or field trip.
A few more mentions:
Mount Sunflower –Mount Sunflower is the highest elevation point in Kansas.
Tanganyika Wildlife Park– Wichita. Looks like a lovely zoo.
This is by no means a complete list so add in the comments what I’ve missed for science field trips in your area!
This list is part of:
The links and field trip suggestions are organized into educational categories to make it easier for you as a homeschooler to plan field trips that will fit into your homeschool program. They are :