By Michelle Gonzalez, Museum Experience Manager, DuPage Children’s Museum
Nowadays my niece and I are the same height (she’s taller when she wears her wedge booties), but that wasn’t always the case. She is the first person I’ve really watched from the day of birth to the day we started discussing when she could wear makeup to school. It’s those days in between that I’m here to talk about.
Working at a children’s museum has always made me the popular aunt when it comes to my niece and nephew. (It’s Auntie Shell’s museum, dontcha know.) As someone who doesn’t have kids of her own to bring here, I’ve always delighted in the two of them being able to come and play, and it’s in those times that I’ve really seen my niece grow and learn.
As a toddler she came to play in the first neighborhood she could see, Creativity Connections, the space based on light, color, and shadows. She waddled straight to the Glow Art board, which people of my generation recognize as a giant Lite Bright. A black light glows above the boards, and the colored acrylic rods glow as they’re put into holes on the board to create a picture that can be viewed from both sides. At that age, all she could do was grasp the rods and pull them off the shelf or out of the board. Her hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills hadn’t quite caught up with her ambition yet. However, she delighted in pulling the rods out and dropping them on the floor.
The next time she visited she again arrived in Creativity Connections as the first stop to play. There was the Glow Art board still standing taller than she was but just as attractive. She walked up (the waddle was gone), grabbed a handful of rods, and started pushing them into the holes on the board. Just like that, she could do it. She knew where she wanted to put them, and now her eyes and her hands could make the connection.
Instances like that are just the reason DCM picks exhibit experiences that are open-ended and appropriate for many ages. They can work for children just learning to walk or preteens looking to challenge themselves and all the learning that comes in between those stages. From one visit to the next you can watch the child you came with learn how to take the next step with an exhibit. You can see the learning in the play.
Michelle is the Museum Experience Manager at DCM. She started her career at the Museum 13 years ago as a volunteer on the floor. When asked what she likes best about her job Michelle said, “I love that every day at the job is a different experience and even after all these years I am still experiencing firsts.”