On January 13 we visited the Ernie Miller Nature Center in Olathe for the “Prairie Traveler” program. The program was presented by one of the wonderful historical interpreters at the nature center, Ms. Molly. Playing the role of “Mattie Johnson”, Ms. Molly engaged the kids with all kinds of stories of her travels from West Virginia to the plains of Kansas. The kids learned about the preparations for the three month journey, including a final meal with family, as well as Mattie’s mother parting with beloved household items too heavy or fragile for the trip.
“Mattie” told us about the good parts of traveling west – the beauty of the sky and clouds, the interesting new plants and animals, entertaining herself on the trail with her handmade doll, and the sense of starting a new adventure. We especially laughed at the story of making pancakes on the trail (the mosquitoes added a little something extra!).
She shared storied of the not so good parts, like having to stay cramped up in the wagon through most of the journey and the dangerous river crossings. We learned about how she was finally given permission to walk behind the wagon while holding a rope so she wouldn’t get lost; but how that quickly became her little sister getting lost (and then found) in the tall prairie grass.
We also learned about life once they arrived in Kansas – how sod was cut to create cabins, the interactions with Kansa natives, attending a one-room schoolhouse and mischievous classmates, and eventually her life as an adult.
Ms. Molly is a gifted interpreter who does a marvelous job of reaching the kids and keeping their attention while making you believe that she really is “Mattie Johnson”. We had a great time at today’s program, and thank her for a wonderful morning.