For Feet That Never Leave Asphalt

By Robert W. Fluchel | February 2, 2006
From Missouri Conservationist: Feb 2006

There are children living in Kansas City whose feet never leave asphalt. Imagine, for a moment, that you are one of them.

“You live your life within a few square city blocks. Outside, the sounds of traffic fill your ears. You connect with computers, video games and television more than nature. Your ideas about conservation have more to do with picking up litter or recycling than fish, forests and wildlife.

If you are this child, or if you care about the future of this child, you are the reason we built the Anita B. Gorman Conservation Discovery Center right in the middle of Kansas City.

The Discovery Center is there to connect the urban person with nature. Visitors can learn new skills that will help them enjoy the outdoors for the rest of their lives.

Current outdoor enthusiasts can share their love of the outdoors as a volunteer. Here is a place to meet lots of other dedicated people who love and know the outdoors and who want to help beginners.

A Unique Location

The Discovery Center is located in the heart of Kansas City in Kauffman Legacy Park. It shares the home of one of Missouri’s largest charitable foundations: the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, named for the founder of Marion Laboratories and longtime owner of the Kansas City Royals.

The Kauffman Foundation contributes 8 acres of its Kauffman Legacy Park for use as the Urban Conservation Campus of the Discovery Center.

Kauffman Legacy Park connects to many walking routes that link up with the Brush Creek Corridor sidewalks. These, in turn, link several cultural and natural resources, such as Kauffman Memorial Gardens, Volker Park, Nelson-Atkins Art Museum, the University of Missouri at Kansas City, Rockhurst University and Stowers Institute. The Country Club Plaza shops and many fine restaurants are also within walking distance of the Discovery Center.

Hands-on Workshops

Each of these six workshops invites people inside with a department-store style glass front that features its theme. Weekday classes are reserved for school groups. The public is invited to paricipate on weekends.

Nature’s Bounty Workshop: Learn how and why we harvest living things from the wild. A unique room combines a demonstration kitchen, a fishing simulator and a Laser Shot hunting simulator.

Older children and adults can whet their appetite for fish, game and wild edibles. How about signing up to learn how to make a pizza with morel mushrooms, ground venison and wild greens?

Nature’s Garden Workshop: Develop gardening skills in a greenhouse with planting benches. Learn to grow native trees, shrubs and wildflowers from an expert. Plan a backyard environment that will attract, house and feed songbirds and attract butterflies. Also, learn how to start seeds or plant a rain garden.

Nature’s Aquarium Workshop: Experiment with flowing stream models built to scale in a bright laboratory. Learn about fish, fishing and how to sample and collect other aquatic life forms, such as crayfish, frogs and insects. Also, measure water quality by sampling the invertebrates that live in the water.

Exploring the Outdoors Workshop: Watch and identify birds, follow mammal tracks, pitch a tent or use a compass in a room full of basic outdoor equipment that looks like a sporting goods store. What natural area would you like to visit and explore?

Nature’s Palette Workshop: Make exquisite leaf prints, take nature photos or build a wooden tree mosaic in a studio full of art media. Appeal to your inner artist by sketching and journaling about nature, just as Lewis and Clark did 200 years ago.

Woodworking for Wildlife Workshop: Construct a bird feeder or wren nest box in a carpentry workshop and practice using basic tools. Participants will take home a product that he or she has built. Enhance the wildlife habitat around your home.

Saturdays for Families, Scouts and Special Events

Saturdays are informal learning days at the Discovery Center. Visitors can either walk in and take advantage of the activities of the day or sign up in advance for classes and workshops listed in our quarterly newsletter.

Special Discovery Days, nature concerts like Fiddles and Forests and a wide variety of community conservation group programs and exhibits are open and free to the public.

Events may focus on such topics as Lewis and Clark or wildlife. The gift shop and teacher resource room offer educational items for parents and teachers who want to combine shopping and browsing with a special event.

Walk the Wild Sidewalk, Grow Native or Go Green

A winding-loop sidewalk will introduce you to gardening for hummingbirds, songbirds and butterflies. Pick up tips along the way on landscaping urban areas with native plants.

Tour a building and grounds that are environmentally friendly, either with a guide or on your own. See geothermal heat pumps, solar power, bioswale retention basins, recycled products and a living machine! See dozens of green design features all in one place.

Coming soon: The Metropolitan Energy Center, in cooperation with the Conservation Department and the Department of Natural Resources, will open a new Project Living Proof Discovery House. It will be adjacent to the Discovery Center and will feature everything homeowners can do to retrofit an existing home for conservation purposes.

Learning, caring and shaping

Reaching city kids is vitally important for conservation. These children will determine the future of forests, fish and wildlife in Missouri. We want them to know and love the natural resources of our state because the quality of all of our lives depends on whether or not citizens care.

The Discovery Center is an urban meeting place where families of various backgrounds can meet and learn together. Here, they can acquire outdoor skills and participate in the outdoors.

The Discovery Center is a place where children whose feet have never left asphalt can learn to build a birdhouse, grow a tree, make a leaf print or dip their hands in a flowing stream. It is a place to watch birds, track mammals, learn about green building design, naturescaping and energy conservation—a place to see conservationists practice what they teach

  • Address: Anita B. Gorman Conservation Discovery Center, Kauffman Legacy Park, 4750 Troost Ave., Kansas City MO 64110
  • Telephone: (816) 759-7300
  • Website:
  • Areas Hours: Dawn till dusk, 365 days a year
  • Building Hours: 8 a.m. till 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday; closed on Sundays, New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
  • Gift Shop and Teacher Resource Room: A beautiful gift shop and teacher resource room offer many educational items.

This Issue's Staff

Editor in Chief - Ara Clark
Managing Editor - Nichole LeClair
Art Director - Cliff White
Artist - Dave Besenger
Artist - Mark Raithel
Photographer - Jim Rathert
Writer/editor - Tom Cwynar
Staff Writer - Jim Low
Designer - Susan Fine
Circulation - Laura Scheuler