Blue Star Voices
One of the author's daughters experiments with an air tube at the DuPage Children's Museum. Photo courtesy of Molly Blake
During the school months, every weekday morning is the same. I weave through my Arizona neighborhood picking up my crew: Casey, the Smith boys, Brielle---and along with my daughter---off we go to elementary school. After the six children tumble out of my clown car, a tangled mess of backpacks, lunch boxes and water bottles, I always say the same thing.
And for the most part they do.
My daughter has mastered cursive handwriting, she got through the 13’s in Mad Dog Math, read all the Harry Potter books, and passed the associated reading tests. She learned something all right. But school’s out for summer (cue Alice Cooper song lyrics) and we’re on leave visiting family and friends in several states. No classrooms, no backpacks, no Friday morning PE uniform search and rescue missions. It’s wiffle ball in my parent’s yard---the same dead patch of grass that my brother and I used for home plate is still there. It’s fishing with bacon, digging for worms, and chasing fireflies. It’s puzzles and dress-up, sandcastles, and plinking on my grandmother’s out-of-tune piano. Is she learning something? You bet.
“Shadow freezing and writing on the wall with the laser were my favorite things,” said my seven-year old daughter Helen after our visit to the DuPage Children’s Museum, a Blue Star Museum. Spending a day at a museum is a rare opportunity during the school year with homework, science projects, and spelling tests. Not to mention deployments, my job (which I love), oh and dinner!
This is what I love most about Blue Star Museums---the opportunity that you cannot pass up. How can we not take advantage of a chance to stand inside a bubble (a fave exhibit at DCM)? What seven-year-old doesn’t love standing inside a wind tunnel wearing scientist goggles? And what makes a five-year-old smile? Easy---crawling in a life-size hamster tube and running through a funhouse mirror maze. Bonus: they are learning science, math, and engineering through good old-fashioned play.
And just as neon and peg-rolled jeans have made a comeback, so has the idea that children need down-time. I’m 38 (and not afraid to admit it) and my summers were filled with bike rides and games of Porch---a twist on Ghost in the Graveyard involving the neighborhood kids. We had dandelion-picking contests and played hop scotch, jumped rope, and made up dances to the Grease soundtrack. And I turned out okay. But let’s face it---I’m not going to let my children race unsupervised through the subdivision after dark and there are other realities that have altered what play means today. But thanks to Blue Star Museums, I can capture some of that nostalgia and help round out their classroom education with unforgettable experiences.
Started by two grandmothers committed to helping children learn through playing, the DuPage Children’s Museum is teeming with energy. Besides the water and bubble stations, there are thousands of wooden blocks, Erector sets the size of tree branches, instruments, microscopes, a light-refracting display, and a hose that blew out a steady, strong stream of cool fresh air. “Awesomeness in a tube,” said my daughter.
School will start up again before we know it. But in the meantime, we’ve got Blue Star Museum visits slated in each of the three states on our itinerary.
Just before leaving, much to my children’s disappointment, we passed the electricity demonstration where my five-year-old casually pointed to the display.
“Those are conductors and insulators,” said my daughter. “I learned how they work with those little lights.”