A summer program that allows for free admission to educational attractions across Kansas, including things like the Rolling Hills Zoo, the Garage auto museum, and the Eisenhower Presidential Library begins this weekend. The Sunflower Summer Program, which promotes learning and family engagement during the summer by allowing Kansas families free access to museums, zoos, historic landmarks, outdoor locations and other attractions will kick off Friday.
The Sunflower Summer Program, which is being funded by federal COVID-19 money to offer summer enrichment activities for Kansas students, will run through Aug. 13 or until funding runs out, whichever comes first.
Before the program’s official launch date, adults can visit www.sunflowersummer.org to learn more about the program.
Since its start in 2021, the program has provided summer enrichment learning opportunities for 164,318 Kansas students and 110,744 adults.
In 2021, there were 71 venues. That number increased to 90 for the 2022 program. For 2023, more than 100 venues are taking part. Venues develop learning activities to supply directed learning that engages both children and adults.
The updated app is available to download to phones or tablet devices. People who kept the app on their device from last summer do not need to download another copy – they will receive an electronic notice to simply update their app to the 2023 version.
The app is available for both iPhone and Android users. Adults will need to register their family members and include their county, school district and grade level of students.
Each Kansas child pre-K-18 years of age, as well as students in 18-21-year-old programs, and up to two accompanying adults may each access one ticket voucher to each of the participating attractions in the Sunflower Summer app at no charge. Once a location has been selected, tickets can be claimed within the app. When attendees are ready to enter, the tickets can be activated and presented to the ticket taker.
After the first use, the Sunflower Summer passport (in the app) will be stamped, and the tickets will no longer be accessible.
More information, including a full list of 2023 participating venues and a frequently asked questions section, is available at sunflowersummer.org.
In addition to more than 100 attractions, this year’s Sunflower Summer program is offering the following bonus events:
- Story Adventures
- Dates and locations: Beginning in July.
- Clinton State Park in Lawrence.
- El Dorado State Park
- Milford State Park.
- Dates and locations: Beginning in July.
What it is: Interactive adventures that combine the fun of reading with exploring. Story Adventures are based on three books that are part of the Dolly Parton Imagination Library collection. During the entire month of June, families with children of all ages can access short trails – about one-quarter of a mile in length – with 16 signs that feature a children’s story related to nature and the outdoors. Signs have large-scale displays of actual pages from the three books, allowing children and/or families to read the stories as they progress along the trails. The signs also have activities that participants can do along the trail. At the end of each trail, as a part of the Sunflower Summer app, families can virtually “meet” a new friend and take a photo with the friend in a story-themed photo frame. The three featured books are:
- “As an Oak Tree Grows,” by G. Brian Karas
- “Miss Maple’s Seeds,” by Eliza Wheeler.
- “Where Butterflies Grow,” by Joanne Ryder.
- Families living throughout Kansas can also register to enroll children birth through age 5 in Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library using QR codes on the signs and in the Sunflower Summer app.
- Sunflower Summer Mini Camp Nights
- Dates and locations:
- June 2-3, Milford State Park. To register, contact the Milford State Park Office at 785-238-3014.
- June 9-10, Cheney State Park. To register, call the Cheney State Park Office at 316-542-3664.
- June 16-17, Historic Lake Scott State Park. To register, call the Historic Lake Scott Park Office at 620-872-2061.
- What it is: The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks will offer one night of camping to Sunflower Summer participants. Up to five campsites will be available per park, per camp night (pre-registration is required). Camp nights include a one-night stay at a campsite, a tent (for up to six family members) and a day permit to access the park. Registration closes a week prior to the event. More information will be provided after registration.
- Tri-State Antique Engine and Threshers Association 70th Annual Show
- Date and location: July 27-29, Bird City.
- What it is: Celebrate our rural heritage. The 70th annual show will feature 17 operating steam engines, wheat binding, threshing, sawmill, tractor pulls, gas engines, children’s activities, quilts, chuck wagon breakfast, and more.
- Sunflower Summer Family Camp
- Date and location: July 13-14: Eisenhower State Park.
- What it is: Registration is full. However, families can be added to a waiting list. Tents are available for 30 families (up to six family members per tent). Dinner is provided for all registered families. Families must pre-register for this event. For more information, email [email protected].
- Wichita Wind Surge Sunflower Sundays
- Dates: June 25 and July 30
- What it is: The Wichita Wind Surge, affiliated with the Minnesota Twins, plays home games at the Riverfront Stadium located just west of the Arkansas River. Tickets may be activated on the Sunflower Summer App on the day of the game only. No reservations or advanced purchases are accepted. Check the app for more information.
- Summer Camps and Enrichment
- Various dates and locations.
- What it is: Learning experiences for students in kindergarten through eighth grade. Connect with nature and take part in canoeing, archery, fishing, cooking, coding and more. Visit sunflowersummer.org for more information.