For 25 years, DuPage Chidren's Musem has been drawing visitors not just from DuPage, but from 60 counties throughout Illinois. And it all started with two suburban grandmothers with a dream.
At DuPage Children's Museum, learning comes naturally. Their mission has stayed the same since the beginning.
"It was to stimulate curiosity, creativity, thinking and problem-solving skills in young children," said DuPage Children's Museum CEO Susan Broad.
The museum started with humble beginnings. The two grandmothers who founded it were also early childhood educators.
"They really felt as grandparents they were aware of and able to improve the learning opportunities out here in the western suburbs," Broad said. "So, they started a children's museum, doesn't everybody?"
Despite being told how difficult it would be, in 1987, Louis Beem and Dorothy Carpenter, started the museum by taking traveling exhibits around in a station wagon.
"They went from different places in the county to government buildings. They quickly attracted a following," said Broad.
After a few more stops, a pilot musem debuted in Wheaton, Ill., in 1992. Nearly 10 years later, the permanent location opened in Naperville, currently serving more than 300,000 visitors every year.
To the little kids who come to the museum, it just feels like a giant indoor playground, but everything they touch here is designed to help them learn and grow.
"We have a great process of developing exhibits. We start by interviewing children," said interdisciplinary arts specialist Marcia Macrae. "We know children are going to play, motivated to play, in that play they're going to be discovering."
From water to bubbles to blocks, children discover on their own how math, science and art intersect, and that learning happens with little fanfare, just as the founders intended.
"One of my favorite stories is a kid who was sawing in the construction house. Someone said, 'What are you making?' He looked at her like she was crazy, and said, 'Two pieces.'"
To help celebrate their anniversary, the museum launched a campaign to raise awareness of the importance of math, art, science for kids, or MASK. So, more than 100 celebrities like Halle Berry, Tom Hanks and Chicago Blackhawks players have signed masks to be auctioned off. There's even one signed by the ABC7 Chicago morning news team! The artwork on that one is from Sue Sklansky of Wilmette. She said she was inspired by the design because she watches ABC7 every morning with her cup of coffee.
Anyone can bid on the mask.
For more information, visit www.dupagechildrensmuseum.org