Above / Set to open in December of 2019, “Young Explorers” will welcome infants and toddlers with their caregivers to enter the big red door of the DuPage Children’s Museum to discover a redesign that encourages conversation and interaction via playful learning.

(Naperville, IL)… The youngest visitors to DuPage Children’s Museum will benefit from the research, design and programming for redesigned Young Explorers areas in the Museum, thanks in part to a $250,000 matching grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), which provides federal support for museums and libraries across the country. The new exhibit areas are set to open in December of 2019.

“This grant and the funds that will follow it will provide us the resources to dive deeply into developing learning opportunities for infants and toddlers that meet their specific developmental needs, while offering cozier spaces that encourage conversation and interaction between children and their adult caregivers,” said Kim Stull, Director of Exhibits and Operations.

The project will help ensure children up to three years old have the informal educational resources they need for developing strong neural pathways conducive to learning, and help address the problem of caregivers not knowing why or how to engage their young child in playful learning.  

The nearly three-year project will capitalize on the Museum’s award-winning facility, effective programs, and long-standing collaboration with community-based organizations.

“In the development stage, beginning in January, we will be reviewing the goals of the exhibit and thinking through the experiences we want to create,” said Stull.

The design and educational elements will be informed by observational research already underway by DCM research partner Nicole Rivera, Ed.D., Associate Professor of Psychology at North Central College, as well as current thinking of early childhood specialists including the Museum’s own Alix Tonsgard, M.S.

“Really, information on the development of the young child hasn’t changed that much,” said Tonsgard.  “But there are new and innovative ways of supporting that growth. In addition to opportunities for gross and fine motor development, we are looking to prompt a reciprocal exchange between the child and adult that is so crucial for social emotional development, the beginning of language, and building the brain’s architecture.”

‘Young Explorers’ will complement other exhibits 

The Young Explorers areas are designed to echo the principles of other exhibits in the Museum. They begin to lay the foundation for future STEM learning in the youngest children and help caregivers feel confident facilitating and supporting that learning. The Museum Creativity Connections exhibit presents light and color from scientific, social, and artistic perspectives.  Build It explores physics principles like cause and effect, gravity, and spatial relations. Awesome Energy further explores the physical properties of air, water, and electricity.

“The Young Explorers redesign will create experiences that spark that awe-struck moment in a child that their adult will respond to intuitively,” Tonsgard added.

In addition to the exhibit spaces, the IMLS grant provides for development of an educational program for low-income parents and caregivers to enable them to further children’s understanding of STEM fundamentals at the Museum and at home, as well as training staff to use the exhibits to further visitors’ and educators’ experience.

Located in Naperville, DuPage Children’s Museum serves a multi-county area including DuPage, Cook, Kane, DeKalb, Kendall, Lake, Grundy, Kankakee, Will, and McHenry Counties in the Chicagoland area.  A force for early learning for more than 30 years, the museum seeks to ignite the potential of all children to learn through hands-on exploration by integrating art, math, and science. In addition to the on-site experiences offered at the Museum, over 30,000 students benefit from early learning and school programs annually.

DuPage Children’s Museum

The Museum helps develop curiosity, creativity, thinking, and problem solving in young children through its mission: “DuPage Children’s Museum ignites the potential of all children to learn through hands-on exploration by integrating art, math, and science.”

Interactive exhibits and programs make learning fun for children and adults playing together. DCM serves over 300,000 visitors annually representing all 50 states and 575 zip codes in Illinois. DCM’s reach and support represent well beyond the Chicagoland area. The Museum’s impact extends across cultural, financial, and educational boundaries. It touches the lives of children from all regions, providing the building blocks for success in school and life.

The Museum is located at 301 N. Washington Street in Naperville, www.dupagechildrens.org or call (630) 637-8000.

Submitted by Jaime Johnson, Sr. Marketing Manager, for the DuPage Children’s Museum.