909 N 7 Hwy; Olathe, KS
Web site: http://www.erniemiller.com
On our way home from my doctor’s appointment, Peanut, Efrit and I stopped by the Ernie Miller Nature Center. It would earn us another stamp in our Passport to Adventure and give us a chance for some low-cost family time, since its entry fee is the low, low cost of free.
The center is uber-easy to find, which is a plus when travelling with a 20-month-old. There are official attraction signs (they’re brown, so they’re hard to miss) on both K10 and K7, and each turn is clearly marked with a sign showing you which way to go–I love this about Kansas. It’s surrounded by gardens of native flowers, and there are tons of walking paths and trails around it.
For our trip, we focused on the center itself. The main building is actually pretty small, and there’s not a whole lot to see; I would say that the center reception area and gift shop is as large as the exhibit space. It was pretty clear to us that this was mainly intended as a school outreach center: classes could come here to learn about nature, and the center’s really set up for that purpose. There’s a courtyard garden with indoor/outdoor habitats for the Barn Owl and Great Horned Owl and a nice stone fountain that provides audio interest; however, the plaque outside the garden instructed us not to let kids pick the flowers, which felt like stern instructions not to touch to me. Since my kiddo sees with his hands as much as his eyes, this made the garden difficult for us, as we kept him from grabbing hold of interesting textures that floated across the garden path.
There wasn’t much in the center itself that was friendly for visually-impaired kids. There was a room with a “Discovery Center” that had two dressers with toys in it, and Peanut adored the little plastic animals. However, most of the puzzles were missing pieces and were in poor repair. Peanut had a great time running up and down the hallways, but not a whole lot of learning took place. All in all, I can’t recommend the Ernie Miller Nature Center as a place to visit with blind or visually-impaired children, as there’s just not a whole lot that’s accessible for them.