Chicago nature museum creates program for special needs

Breakfast with the Butterflies provides families with special needs a time to enjoy the museum


By Tamara L. O'Shaughnessy


The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum knows very well the benefits that being in nature has for children.

Now, it is opening its doors early the third Sunday of every month to create a special time just for families with children with developmental differences to get those benefits themselves.

The effort began after the museum saw success with early morning field trips done in conjunction with its early childhood partnerships and staff wanted to open it to the entire community, says Christine Chirchirillo, early elementary science partnership educator at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.

"Exploring nature and science at the museum in this welcoming environment really helps support positive interaction with urban nature. We want to offer families the opportunity to connect with Illinois and the ecology," Chirchirillo says.

A new social story for the museum has been created so parents can prepare for the experience. In addition, care has been taken to make the visit comfortable. Chirchirillo says lighting will be reduced in some areas and the loud speakers will be turned off, as will the waterfalls in the butterfly haven, and volunteers and staff will offer very simple encounters throughout the museum.

"We want families to feel confident and comfortable entering any museum environment, but more specifically for the nature museum's goals, we want them to also feel comfortable entering ecology and entering nature," she says. "We really think offering the museum to them in a safe environment can help bridge that."


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