This is really at the heart of what we are trying to do at the Children's Museum in Oak Lawn - we want the Museum to be a fun place of learning for children and families. All too often learning isn't fun for children. All too often learning is presented as a tedious task that is required by the state to measure what you know, but not necessarily what you learned.
Sure, the Children's Museum in Oak Lawn has learning that aligns with what children need to know in school. Our "Raceways" exhibit on the first floor teach children about momentum as their golf balls travel on ramps on the five exhibits in that area. Our "Nano: The Science of Small" exhibit helps children conceptualize that not only can things get bigger, but smaller as well. And the Umigo exhibit gives kids an opportunity to learn, in a hands-on way, some basic math skills.
Learning, however, is not just about academics. Children learn a variety of other things at the Children's Museum in Oak Lawn. Cooperation and sharing is a big deal in the "Friendly Market" and at the "Train Table" exhibits. Developing critical thinking skills are prevalent at the Gear Wall, the Velcro Wall, and in the building area. Caring is part of our vet area as children pretend to take care of animals. Creativity abounds in the art room where you can paint on the window or create your own kite to soar around the art room on the kite exhibit. Yes, along with science and math, children are able to explore interpersonal skills, critical thinking skills, caring and creativity, which are just some of the aspects that children are introduced to in our unstructured play environment.
As a parent, myself, I know that the demands of life sometimes get overwhelming and we all have different situations. But, one thing I know is that our time with our children is short. My children are college and high school age, so trust me on this. If you can do two things with them while they are younger:
- Take them to explore as many children's museums as you can. Most Children's Museums, like the Children's Museum in Oak Lawn, are independent non-profit organizations but all have common thread running through them and that thread is "learning through play." Each children's museum will offer your family a unique experience.
- Choose one children’s museum as your home museum, become a member, and get involved as a donor or volunteer. The Children’s Museum in Oak Lawn was founded by a mom, Carol Marsh, who wanted to provide additional learning opportunities for children living in Oak Lawn area. Because other people saw her vision and got involved, we are now able to serve families throughout the Chicagoland area, as well as Northwest Indiana.
If you don’t know if you have a children’s museum near you, visit the Association of Children’s Museum’s website at http://www.childrensmuseums.org/
When I conduct my morning walkthroughs and I see comments from children, like Lina’s, on our Talk Back Board in the “We the People” exhibit, it puts a smile on my face. Why? Because, I know, that the work we do here was important to Lina.
Lina, I agree. Museums should be fun!