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Our Mission

The purpose of KC Urban Advantage (KCUA) is to help break the cycle of poverty in Kansas City by increasing confidence and ability in academic achievement for underserved children. Our mission is to provide access to holistic STEAM education and unlock opportunities for higher learning and future STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) careers.

The Museum at Prairiefire administrates and funds the development and implementation of KCUA programming, resources, and partnerships to provide comprehensive, world-class STEAM experiences for students and educators throughout the greater Kansas City Metro where resources are scarce.

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“Thank you all for your commitment to our students and their learning. This partnership has brought experiences, education, hands-on learning and enthusiasm to our students that they otherwise wouldn’t have.”

— Valerie, Teacher, Ridgeview Elementary


Too many students – especially those furthest from opportunity – are unprepared for the modern economy and the challenges of the 21st century. 

The need for more STEM-related education in American schools has been recognized for some time. According to the U.S. Department of Education, “In a world where success is driven not only by what you know, but by what you can do with what you know, it’s more important than ever for our youth to be equipped with the knowledge and skills to solve tough problems, gather and evaluate evidence, and make sense of information… Yet today, few American students pursue expertise in STEM fields—and we have an inadequate pipeline of teachers skilled in those subjects.” 1

It’s crucial to start EARLY. "If you're thinking about STEM education, whether it's women or underrepresented minorities, you really have to be thinking about it from cradle to college. By the time they hit kindergarten, many of them are already behind. There is leakage in every step of the pipeline so you have to have programs at every step of the pipeline." Ana Mari Cauce, President, University of Washington

A shortage of teachers in STEM subjects leads to a shortage of young men and women who are able to step into the many STEM-related jobs that are growing in number every day.  For example, less than 20% of 2016 KCMO 5th graders scored proficient or higher in science.  Unfortunately, many schools don’t have the resources to bolster STEM education. When education budgets are cut, teachers look for outside resources to help provide the learning opportunities that will not only educate students, but also inspire them to pursue careers in STEM fields. Science proficiency is an integral 21st century skill and KC Urban Advantage is ready to do something about it. Urban Advantage programs in other U.S. cities have a demonstrated record of making change. New York Urban Advantage schools went from performing below non-UA schools by almost 10 percent to exceeding them by 5% in just a 3 year period.

KC Urban Advantage is funded in full by the Museum at Prairiefire, and collectively, alongside its partnering cultural and learning institutions provides extraordinary resources in direct support of STEAM – specific goals.

1 “Science, Technology, Engineering and Math: Education for Global Leadership,” at http://www.ed.gov/stem.




Board of directors

Anab Abdulahi | AXA Advisors

Darren Dupriest | Validity Screening Solutions

Michael S. Engel, PhD | University of Kansas

Brett Gordon | McCown Gordon

Scott K. Martinsen | Kirkland Woods & Martinsen 

Greg Musil | Rouse Frets Gentile Rhodes

Fred L. Merrill, Jr. | Merrill Companies

Suze Parker | Parker Communications

Bill Snyder | Kansas State University

Joe Sopcich, PhD | Johnson County Community College

Thomas J. Turner, III | Grandbridge


executive director

Dr. Kathryn McKinney

Dr. McKinney is an experienced museum educator and administrator with a demonstrated practice of developing and leading innovative teaching and learning experiences. After a life-changing course on the history of life, she dedicated the ensuing years to learning about our planet and how to inspire others to share in that sense of wonder. In this pursuit, she completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Kansas and earned graduate degrees from Indiana University-Bloomington, culminating in the completion of a dual-PhD in Geological Sciences and Anthropology. Dr. McKinney has 9 years’ experience teaching geology in laboratory, lecture, and field settings at KU and IU. She was the 2011 recipient of the Droste Outstanding Associate Instructor award, cited for strong and steady contributions to student learning.

Dr. McKinney’s experience as a college instructor inspired the pursuit of a career that drew upon those experiences to develop and manage science outreach initiatives for people of all ages, but particularly children. All with the hope of inspiring curious lifelong learners. At the Museum at Prairiefire and through KC Urban Advantage, she has worked with educators, administrators, partners and parents to provide meaningful experiences for approximately 40,000 students from 58 public school districts, 135 private schools, and numerous youth programs since July 2014.