Spotlight On: Kohl Children’s Museum


Kohl Children’s Museum

One visit to the Kohl Children’s Museum home base in Glenview (in Cook County) and three trips to its Pop-Up Museum locations (in the under-resourced Lake County communities of Waukegan, Round Lake and North Chicago) have revealed two things: kids love to play and Kohl Children’s Museum is a leader in delivering hands-on, educational-based fun.

For nearly 35 years, “Kohl Children’s Museum has been using play to inspire a love of learning in young children.” Since 2018, the museum has been taking its exhibits on the road as part of its “commitment to ensuring that every child and family has access to a high-quality children’s museum experience.”

Kohl Children’s Museum first piloted the Pop-Up Museum initiative in Waukegan during February and March of 2018. It was so successful that the Round Lake and North Chicago locations were added this year, with each site hosting a Pop-Up Museum for two months. Through these three locations, the Kohl Children’s Museum can provide 150 field trip opportunities to approximately 3,000 underserved Lake County children. The pop-ups also provide opportunities for all families in the area to visit during set family hours, which could reach 9,000 or more visitors each year.

A Tech Play Lab exhibit was recently debuted at the North Chicago Pop-Up Museum (which is located within the National Museum of the American Sailor on the grounds of the Naval Station Great Lakes). Kohl Children’s Museum now plans to have it become a permanent exhibit at its home museum in Glenview. The exhibit teaches early coding concepts and encourages children to experiment with computer science and technology using programable robots and Fisher Price’s Code-a-Pillar (a caterpillar-like motorized toy that is brought to life by programming and configuring the pieces to make it go forward, left, right, etc., and to move it from start to finish targets). Other popular exhibits that appear at the pop-ups include Airmazing, which features large wind tubes and a blower to demonstrate airflow, drag, symmetry and gravity; oversized imagination playground blocks for design and construction; and a puppet theater, art studio and reading nook.

Kohl Children’s Museum provides these unique, free and fun educational STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, math) opportunities in Waukegan, Round Lake and North Chicago, to help ensure that every child—regardless of ethnic, socio-economic or geographical circumstances—can experience the joys of learning. The museum is also empowering children and their families to play and learn together.

In addition to the Pop-Up Museums, Kohl Children’s Museum works with educators in Lake County through its Early Childhood Connections program, which offers three full days of professional development training, classroom resources and field trips to educators serving at-risk youth. This past year, 13 Lake County educators participated in the program, benefiting more than 280 students in Lake County. The museum also partners with Robbie M. Lightfoot Early Learning Center, Green Bay Early Childhood Center, the Waukegan Public Library and North Chicago Community Partners for programming and math and science professional development.

Kohl Children’s Museum Success Story: In planning for the 2019 Waukegan Pop-Up, the museum strived to continue developing existing community partners and add at least one more. With this goal in mind, the museum invited the Waukegan Police Department to participate in the Pop-Up Museum initiative. The Community Policing Division agreed to participate in Officer Story Time as a way of building positive relationships and interactions with the local community. Officer Story Time was a huge success. As police officers gained a comfort level with the free-flowing, play-based structure of a children’s museum, they began to extend Officer Story Time to include play time and causal communication with children and families. In addition, one of the Waukegan K-9 Officers performed a K-9 demonstration for visitors. “This opportunity allows officers to give back to the families we serve in a positive way,” said Sergeant Craig Neal of the Neighborhood Policing Unit. “The Waukegan Police Department needs for this partnership to foster and continue to grow. The Pop-Up Museum offers a neutral, safe educational zone bridging gaps between the community and law enforcement…It is my hope that these encounters will fuel not only a lifetime of learning but also trust and community building as well.”

Kohl Children’s Museum By the Numbers: 

Around 330,000 people visit the
Kohl Children’s Museum location
in Glenview each year, interacting
with its 17
hands-on exhibits
In 2019, Kohl Children’s Museum held 3 Pop-Up Museums, for 2
months per site, in under-resourced Lake County communities
The Kohl Children’s Pop-Up Museum locations will host 150 field trips, serving an
estimated 3,000
children each year
More than 12,000 guests visited
the Kohl Children’s
Pop-Up Museums
in 2019
Nearly 2,200 children  were served through
the museum’s
Early Childhood Connections program last year

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