While these resources are obviously not intended as a substitute
for an actual museum visit, they provide a valuable learning tool
for today's computer-savvy kids. Here is a list of Web addresses of
the online interactive activities discussed in the story:
Chicagoans are fortunate to have access to some of the finest
museums in the world right here in our hometown.
However, the reality is that not all Chicago-area families are
able to visit local gems like the Art Institute or the Adler
Planetarium as often as they would like due to tight budgets, busy
schedules or even less-than-ideal winter weather conditions.
The good news is that when families can't make an actual trip to
their favorite museum, kids can still benefit from these valuable
Increasingly, cultural and educational institutions are offering
interactive online activities on their Web sites for would-be
visitors. Whether the site offers games, podcasts or
problem-solving exercises, these activities provide an introduction
to the collections and exhibits at the actual museum. This is a
great way to prepare kids for an upcoming museum visit. Moreover,
these resources also provide a valuable educational alternative
when an excursion to see the real thing just isn't possible.
The Art Institute of Chicago is at the forefront of using online
interactive resources to reach a targeted audience. The Art
Institute introduced the Curious Corner feature on its Web site
"This online program evolved from an initiative in the '90s to
add interactive computers for kids in the actual museum," says
Carolina Kaufman, coordinator of Educational Technology Programs
for the Art Institute. "The idea is to educate young people about
the museum's collection through play and discovery. These
activities get kids excited about art while also focusing on
developing specific skills."
Curious Corner is designed for children age 3-12. Kids are
encouraged to explore the site with a parent, peer or even a
teacher. However, the activities can also be an independent
learning experience for older kids. Users can access the storytime
feature to read about pieces in the museum's collection. In the
section of the site titled "Play with Art," the user gets to play
the role of artist while creating a mask inspired by various animal
traits. Kids can then print and color their creation.
Visitors to the Art Institute can also access Curious Corner at
kiosks in the new Crown Family Room in the Ryan Education Center.
"It is our hope that visitors will want to go visit the artwork
after they have used the interactive materials," Kaufman says,
adding that this initiative has been very popular with users and
the Art Institute plans to expand on its online interactive
offerings in the future.
Several other Chicago museums have similar interactive online
offerings for kids of all ages.
The Field Museum has collaborated with a kid-oriented social
networking site called Kidscom.com to create an interactive game
called Animal Adventure. Young users learn about biodiversity in
the Illinois wetlands by collecting pictures of animals, creating
puzzles and then voting on solutions that might save endangered
On the Museum of Science and Industry Web site, kids can learn
about basic science principles through interactive games. For
example, players can collect spare robot parts from various
locations throughout the museum and then construct a simple
The Adler Planetarium Web site offers interactive space trivia
games and Teencasts that feature local students talking about
science and conducting experiments.
Finally, although the Freedom Museum has closed its physical
doors, virtual visitors can still learn valuable information about
basic freedoms and human rights through online activities based on
real-life court cases on the Freedom Project Web site.
Caitlin Murray Giles is a
freelance writer and mom of three.
Caitlin Murray Giles is a full-time mother of three and part-time freelance writer living in Wicker Park.
See more of Caitlin's stories here.
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