Ages 9-11 | Nature & Animals

Spend an afternoon hiking the trails, visiting with the animals and taking a scavenger hunt at Ernie Miller Nature Center.  Kids will enjoy seeing birds of prey, salamanders, snakes and other native animals -- along with exploring nature.

Before Your Visit:

  • Visit the Ernie Miller website to find out about any special events that you may want to attend on your visit. 
  • If you plan to hike the trails, wear good hiking shoes and bring any needed items (i.e., sweatshirt, sunscreen, etc.).

Explore Ernie Miller:

  • Visit the homes of the 2 large birds that live outside the center before you enter the building.
  • Scavenger hunt sheets can be found in the front lobby - use this as you explore the center.
  • In the lobby, you’ll find some native salamanders and snakes – can you identify who lives there?
  • There's an outdoor courtyard in the middle of the main building – you will find some amazing owls.  Facts and info about the owls can be found on the windows of the exhibit.
  • Two types of turtles live at the center – a soft shell turtle and a hard shell tortoise.  Explore the hands-on exhibit that helps you learn about why turtles have different shells.
  • Visit the large fish tank, and the birding room that overlooks the outdoor feeding area.  The birding room has a number of nature items that kids can see and learn about while they visit.

Learn More:

  • Explore some great books about owls:

    There's an Owl in the Shower

    Borden does not like the spotted owls that cost his father his job.  But when he 'adopts' an abandoned owlet and tries to care for him, he learns a great deal about the conflicts between nature and industry.

    Nate the Great and the Owl Express

    When Nate the Great hits the rails to guard an owl named Hoot, all kinds of mysterious things begin to happen.  Can he solve the case of the vanishing owl?

          Have you ever had a stingray swim above your head?!  Or watched a horseshoe crab eat dinner?  You'll see this and so much more at SEA LIFE Aquarium.  Watch sharks, stingrays and eels - along with more than 5,000 other sea creatures.  Explore the animals in the touch tank, crawl 'into' and under a fish tank and learn some interesting facts about ocean animals and conservation.

          Before Your Visit:

          • See our "Preparing for Your Visit" guide for details to know before you go.
          • NO FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY - we can't stress this enough as it can severly harm the animals.
          • If the kids are excited, take a look at videos from SEA LIFE of the rays and sharks.

          Explore SEA LIFE in KC:

          • Grab a Quiz card at the front desk and stop at the fun stations throughout the aquarium.
          • The Shoaling Room has a current  that directs the fish in one direction - have your kids pick one fish and see if they can follow the fish all the way around the room.
          • The Freshwater Streams room is beautiful - it features fish from Missouri and Mississippi rivers along with a waterfall!
          • Kids will love reading the fish facts and info on the walls!
          • Stop at the touch tank with sea stars, horseshoe crab and urchins - try touching the pencil urchin to see what it does - talk to the Educational Specialists about why it behaves that way.
          • Watch the screen near the touch tank to learn about sea turtle conseration efforts.
          • There are lots of tanks in the Shipwreck Room - crawl underneath in one and get a magnified look at the lion fish in another.
          • Spend some time in the Underwater Tunnel looking for sharks and stingrays swimming overhead.
          • See the jellyfish tank - the fish facts about jellies are very interesting.
          • Stand on the glass platform over the tank in the Stingray Bay room and see the stingrays and eels swim below.  Fish in this tank are called 'Pork fish' - they make grunting sounds and grind their teeth.  There is also a tunnel that goes behind the tanks for a better view.
          • Don't forget to stop and see the seahorses - there's some great info about them too!

          Learn More:

          • Play games, learn about marine animals and watch cool videos at the Kid's Ocean area of National Geographic Kids.
          • Fun printable with games and information about sea turtles.
          • A few book recommendations:

          Got a kid who's a shark fanatic?  This is the book for them -- "The Everything Kids' Sharks Book" by Kathi Wagner is packed with facts, puzzles, activities & more!

          Or, for a more informative look at many different types of sharks, along with a few jokes thrown in, try the "The Great Shark Escape" by Joanna Cole (a Magic School Bus chapter book).

          And "All the Way to the Ocean" by Joel Harper is a great book that shows how everyone can help to keep the oceans clean, no matter how far away from one they may live.

          Discover More:

          • Learn more about native fish and local waterways at Burr Oak Woods Nature Center.
          • Visit with other animals that live in water at the Kansas City Zoo, where you'll see otters, sea lions, alligators and a polar bear.

          View SEA LIFE Kansas City in a larger map

          Grab some apples or carrots and come out to feed the elk and bison!  Located right here in Kansas City, Fleming Park is home to these amazing animals.  The deer, elk and bison herds will come up to the fence to eat and visit. 

          Before Your Visit:

          • Bring a camera for come great pictures!
          • If you want to feed the animals, bring some small apples or long carrots (with the green on top) and you can carefully feed them through the fence.
          • The animals have a large area in which they live so you might want to bring binoculars to in case they are in the back of the enclosure.

          Explore the Native Hoofed Animal Enclosure:

          • Make sure to check the lake area and along the tree lines when looking for animals - sometimes they are in the shade.
          • Walk along the fence line to get a closer look.  Many times the animals are grazing or resting in the front of the enclosure.
          • Make sure to be respectful when visiting - don't litter, and don't scare the animals.

          Learn More about Bison & Elk:

          Discover More:

          For more places to see native animals, visit:

          • Burr Oak Woods Nature Center
          • Kansas City Zoo

          View Native Hoofed Animal Enclosure in a larger map

          Your kids will find so much to do at Deanna Rose – visit a prairie town from years ago, learn how cows are milked, run through a tepee, or pick up at passport at Ben’s Bank and search the farmstead for clues.  There are animals to feed, trails to hike, and buildings to explore!

          Before Your Visit:

          • Grab a water bottle and a few snacks to bring with you.
          • Make sure you have quarters if you plan to feed the animals.
          • If you already have a passport, don't forget to bring it -- there may be new clues to solve! (If you don't have one, visit Ben's Bank to pick one up.)

          Explore Deanna Rose Farmstead:

          • NEW THIS YEAR:  The Educational Pavilion (located near the General Store) will host FREE public programs at 11am, 1pm & 3 pm daily.  Programs will highlight turn-of-the-century farmlife and be interactive for kids.
          • Visit Ben’s Bank and pick up a passport clues are located in black boxes around the Farmstead.
          • See the bobcats and birds of prey.  While you're there, take a short hike on the nature trails.
          • Feed the baby goats with bottles of milk ($).
          • Visit some of your favorite farm animals - horses, pigs, goats, sheep, calves & chickens.
          • Explore the schoolhouse and see if they offer a craft of the day ($).
          • Visit the Kanza Indian Encampment to see how Native Americans lived on the plains.
          • Tour the Dairy Barn to see calves, watch a movie about milk and quiz yourself at the video stations.
          • Don't forget a visit to the playground!

          Learn More:

          • Pair a visit to the farmstead with reading "Charlotte's Web" by E.B. White or seeing the movie:

              Another popular book with kids this age would be The Magic Tree House series - "Buffalo Before Breakfast" & "Twister on Tuesday" by Mary Pope Osborne are both good choices for historical life on the great plains.


              Discover More:

              If you enjoyed visiting Deanna Rose, try these fun places for more historical towns & animals:

              • Missouri Town 1855
              • Shoal Creek Living History Museum
              • Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop & Farmstead

              View Deanna Rose Farmstead, 13800 Switzer Rd., Overland Park, KS 66221 in a larger map

              You can do a lot at the Overland Park Arboretum - hike some wooded trails, search for bugs and frogs, go geocaching and learn about gardens.  Search for the new Train garden that's being built, check out the different waterfalls and visit the Children's Garden too.

              Before Your Visit:

              • If you want to hike the trails through the woods, wear good walking shoes as they are mulched and not paved.
              • Remember the rules - stay on the trails, no climbing rocks & trees, and don't pick the flowers.
              • The arboretum has geocahcing if you have a hand-held GPS.  Bring it along and purchase a geocaching guide for $1 at the Visitor's Desk. 

              Explore OP Arboretum:

              • Explore the trails through the woods and around the lake.  You'll see some waterfalls and can probably spy some animals in the woods.
              • Walk through the vine tunnel or climb to the top of the Sky Watch and look around.
              • Take the path around the lake and look stop at the herb garden to smell some of the plants.
              • Visit the new lifesize railroad cars in the Train Garden.

              Learn More:

              "The Secret Garden" by Frances Hodgson Burnett is a classic story about friendships that bloom between 2 children in a 'magic' garden that has been lost and forgotten.

              "Kids Garden: The Anytime, Anyplace Guide to Sowing and Growing Fun" by Avery Hart has many fun ideas and activities that kids will enjoy!

              Discover More:

              • Visit the Beanstalk Children's Garden located in Swope Park - they are are open from June 13th thru October 19th and are participating in the Passport to Adventure program in 2012.


              View Overland Park Arboretum in a larger map

              Curious about animals?  Burr Oak Woods Nature Center is a great place to explore and learn about animals.  Watch some nature films, explore hands-on exhibits, take a nice hike and visit with the many animals who call this center ‘home’.

              Before Your Visit:

              • Check the program guide to sign up for one of the nature programs or family programs before you go.
              • Make sure to bring water and snacks, especially if you're taking a hike.
              • Plan to hike some of the trails (that's the best place to see some animals) so wear comfortable shoes.

              Explore Burr Oak Woods:

              • Watch a nature film in the theater – different ones show throughout the day
              • Go letterboxing or geocaching.
              • Take a hike on one of the nature trails
              • Find all kinds of fish in the 3,000 gallon fish tank
              • Do some animal watching - toads, snakes, birds, and many others.

              Learn More:

              Discover More:


              Other Kansas City places to find native animals:

              • Ernie Miller Nature Center in Olathe, KS
              • Lakeside Nature Center in Kansas City, MO
              • Native Hoofed Animal Enclosure, MO
              • Martha Lafite Thompson Nature Center in Liberty, MO

              View Burr Oak Woods Nature Center in a larger map

              The Kansas City Zoo is a great place to visit animals both large and small.  You can see apes & chimps, a polar bear & sea lions, snakes & tigers.  Feed the lorikeets or the llamas.  Ride the train past the kangaroos, or take a sky-ride over zebras & antelope. 

              Before Your Visit:

              • Wear comfortable shoes - you'll probably walk a lot.
              • Have the kids plan which animals they'd like to see.
              • Check the schedule for Lorikeet feedings and animal chats - kids this age would enjoy learning more details about the animals.
              • Bring a jacket or sweatshirt for the Skyride.

              Explore KC Zoo:

              • Older kids like to see some of the larger animals, so head back to Africa and visit the elephants, hippos and lions - there's also some great smaller animals to see also. 
              • Take the Skyride over Africa to get a great view of the zebras, giraffees and rhinos from the air.
              • While in Africa, visit the chimpanzees.  In addition to watching them, make sure to read the exhibit information on the walls of the chimp building for some interesting facts about their activities and habits.
              • Check the guide for the times of the sea lion shows - they are really active and it's cool to learn how sea lions are different from seals.
              • If you'd like a close encounter with animals, attend one of the lorikeet feedings.  The birds will land on your arm and eat from a cup.
              • To see the tigers, kangaroos and apes, you'll need to head to Australia. 
              • Don't forget to stop and see Nikita, the polar bear, at the front of the zoo.  You can read about polar bears' habitats and how we can all help to save their homes.

              Learn More:

              • For a fun, non-fiction book (and one familiar to kids), try the Magic Tree House non-fiction guides:


              Kids will also enjoy "Thief at the National Zoo" by Carole Marsh (a cool mystery series).


              Discover More:

              Other great places to visit animals in Kansas City:

              View Kansas City Zoo in a larger map