Wonder Works Children’s Museum in Oak Park plans to grow

Wonder Works Children’s Museum has named its first chief operating officer in an effort to boost its fundraising and eventually move to a larger location in Oak Park.

Rachel Rettberg will head the new fundraising campaign that aims to roughly double the size of the museum’s current 6,400-square-foot building at 6445 W. North Ave.

Rettberg says the growth in visitors over the last several years — 45,000 to 60,000 from 2009 to 2014 — makes expansion necessary. Wonder Works also has doubled the number of children’s parties it hosts to 330 over the same period.

Wonder Works Board President John Harris says he believes doubling the size would allow the nonprofit to double its visitors. And although Wonder Works’ core patrons live in Oak Park and surrounding communities, Harris says the facility hosted visitors from more than 330 zip codes in 2014.

“We’d like to find a place that has the right space where people could walk and bike and the location would be transit-oriented, and those would be high priorities,” he says.

Founded in 1991, Wonder Works encourages children 0-8 to learn through creative play and fostering imagination. It’s been at its current location since 2003. The museum also exposes children to the concepts of organic gardening, food health and nutrition.

Rettberg has been involved in early childhood education since moving to the United States from her native England 18 years ago, working as a preschool teacher and an assistant director of a private pre-school and earning a master’s degree in early childhood education from Concordia University in 2011. She currently serves on the St. Giles School Board.

“Wonder Works will continue to be that place where you can be unplugged and free, so you’re not tethered to technology or the more rigid framework of the classroom,” she says. “At Wonder Works, kids are free to experiment, to learn and to work with and cooperate with each other.”

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