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DuPage Children's Museum: Education through Play

By Joshua Grammer

In 1987, two early childhood educators banded together and founded DuPage Children's Museum. Seeing a lag in fun, interactive, educational activities for the youth of the community, DuPage was formed with the intent to provide open-ended, hands-on learning for children. It was to focus on math, science, and art. Louise Beem and Dorothy Carpenter, founders of the Museum, were no strangers to children - both grandmothers, Beem had been involved in the establishment of the early childhood development at the local college and Carpenter was a preschool teacher. The women shared a driving desire to provide learning experiences to the community's children and thus, DuPage Children's Museum was born.

"Learning just doesn't have to happen when a child is sitting at a desk. It can be in an unstructured open-ended environment," says Aliz Tonsgard, Early Learning Specialist. "We hope to inspire them to be excited about STEM concepts or developing an interest in engineering, math or art for example."

The Museum believes that if a child is playing, there is opportunity for failure. "This failure is good because it forces them to be persistent in arriving at a solution, which encourages them to be more creative in the process," explains Tonsgard. "Everything that we do - from exhibit design all the way to programming and interactions on the floor - are guided by constructivist theory and are intended to be fun with learning outcomes."

Although having been open for nearly thirty years, DuPage has not changed in its original mission. That mission is "to stimulate curiosity, creativity, thinking and problem solving in young children through self-directed, open-ended experiences; integration of the arts, science and math; the child-adult learning partnership."

They accomplish this by designing programming specifically with the children's best development in mind. "Everything that we do from exhibit design all the way to programming and interactions on the floor are guided by constructivist theory and are intended to be fun with learning outcomes," Tonsgard explains. "All exhibits and programs that the Museum developed are based on research and best practices in early childhood that are then presented in the playful learning environment that is DCM."

DuPage Children's Museum continues to find innovative ways to enhance the education of the community. They offer camps and school programs, as well as creativity classes that are designed for children ranging from 15 months to 10 years old. Professional development sessions for early childhood education professionals are available through the facility along with Just for Grown-ups and public programming. In addition to educational camps and programs, DuPage is available for birthday parties and facility rental for special occasions such as meetings, holiday parties, school and corporate events, baby showers, and more.

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