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Jul 28

Two programs emphasize experiential learning, include select JCPRD facilities

Posted on July 28, 2021 at 1:57 PM by Becky Burnside

Two different promotional efforts going on now give area residents added incentives to get out and visit specific JCPRD facilities, but you should probably hurry to take advantage of these programs.

The programs are the new Sunflower Summer promotion being spearheaded by the Kansas Department of Education, and the annual Passport to Adventure program presented by the Kansas City Interpretive Site Coalition. JCPRD facilities involved include the Johnson County Museum located inside the Johnson County Arts & Heritage Center at 8788 Metcalf Ave., Overland Park, Theater in the Park’s outdoor location in Shawnee Mission Park with a separate entrance at 7710 Renner Road, Shawnee, and the Ernie Miller Nature Center at 909 N. Kansas 7 Highway, Olathe.

Sunflower Summer is a new program launched in early July which partners with cultural sites around the state to provide a summer of enrichment for PreK to 12th grade students in the state of Kansas - and their parents and legal guardians, too! The program is designed to provide a wide variety of ways for families to get out, explore something new, and enjoy time together. Kansas families can visit more than 70 sites for free, including museums, zoos, historic landmarks, and more for free with the Sunflower Summer Passport.

“Visiting museums, viewing art, going to theater, and the like are great fun, but they are also incredible educational experiences. They light sparks in kids’ minds, prompt them to ask why and how questions, and help them make connections,” said Johnson County Museum Director Mary McMurray. “These experiences help prepare students for a new school year, and a lifetime of learning.”  

One “catch” to this program is that it only runs through Sunday, Aug. 15, so get started by going to, select the correct app store, then download the app to your phone. Follow the prompts to create an account as a parent/guardian, add children, explore experiences, claim your tickets, and set off on your Sunflower Summer adventure!

“This is such a great opportunity for families to get out and experience live theatre,” said Theatre in the Park’s Producing Artistic Director Tim Bair. “The best part… it’s free! And it’s easy too. Just sign up, then show up! Easy!” 

For more about museum exhibits, programs, and events, go to For more information about current performances at the Theatre in the Park’s outdoor facility (TIP’s outdoor season ends Aug. 7), go to The Ernie Miller Nature Center is part of this program as well but offers free admission all the time.

Audience at Theatre in the Park

Since 1994, the Passport to Adventure Program has been introducing participants to “hidden gems” in the Kansas City metro area. Among these sites is JCPRD’s Ernie Miller Nature Center, the Johnson County Arts & Heritage Center (which is the home to the Johnson County Museum), and the Lanesfield Historic Site. The program is free, although some sites charge regular admission to their facilities. Those wishing to take part in Passport to Adventure can pick up a free passport at any of the participating sites. 

Participants have until Oct. 31 to visit 12 of the 24 sites in order to get entered into the drawing for some amazing nature and history prize packages. 

A complete current list of participating sites, which includes KC metro area nature centers, museums, gardens, historical sites, and education centers, can be found at   

“The goal of the program is to help the community know about what amazing historical and natural interpretive/educational sites we have in the greater Kansas City area,” said Outdoor Education Manager Andrea Joslin. “People often discover sites that they never heard of when participating in the program.  Especially sites that are on the other side of the metro area from where participants live.  The passport can also serve as a guide book for future years when looking for activities to do in Kansas City.”

Joslin said that while passport requests at the Ernie Miller site are down somewhat this year because of COVID-19 and the fact that this year’s program did not include the usual annual launch event in March, the nature center usually averages about 100 visitors who bring in their passport to get stamped. 

“The program is a great way to get out and about once again without having to travel very far,” she said. “Many of the sites also have outdoor aspects which means participants can remain at a safe distance from others.  Even if a person starts visiting sites in August, they absolutely can get 12 sites visited in three months, especially if they make plans to visit more than one site in a particular area in one day. “