The Field Museum already had the world’s most complete T. rex skeleton; now it’s aiming to be the most inclusive spot in Chicago to learn about natural history. That’s why the museum recently launched two programs, Accessibility Days and Sensory Saturdays, specifically for kids and adults with special needs.
If you go
The Field Museum
Accessibility Days: Tuesdays in March, April and May; Sensory Saturdays: March 18, April 15, May 20
Free; email firstname.lastname@example.org to register
1400 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago
Accessibility Days are held on Tuesday mornings, when the Crown Family PlayLab is closed to the general public. Groups, whether formal organizations and schools or more casual gatherings of friends, can make reservations to use the PlayLab, which is personalized for the needs of the group. “They really have free exploration of the space,” says Alyssa Harsha, early childhood learning experiences coordinator.
Harsha says that the six experiences within the PlayLab lend themselves to individuals with special needs, whether it’s the tactile experience of digging in Moon Sand to find dinosaur bones or pounding on drums in a sound-proof music room.
Accessibility Days began in the fall and were such a success that the museum created Sensory Saturdays, a chance for families of kids with special needs to visit the PlayLab before it opens to the public. The program includes general admission to the museum.
The PlayLab is also equipped with tools like headphones and weighted blankets if needed.
Both programs require advance registration but are free to attend. Harsha also recommends downloading the free app, “Field for All” (search “Field Museum Inclusion”), which has resources such as a scheduling tool, sensory map of the PlayLab and customized communication cues.
“This is a place that’s safe and welcoming,” Harsha says. “The response has been overwhelmingly positive.”