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posted: 7/22/2014 11:51 AM

Children's museum wins grant to develop STEAM programming

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By Brianne Bromberek
DuPage Children’s Museum

DuPage Children's Museum has received $175,000 as part of the Early Care and Education grant program from the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

The funds will support the museum's effort to develop innovative learning experiences that ignite interest in STEAM, or science, technology, engineering, art and math; support the learning continuum; and build cultural awareness.

Through outreach programs the museum is able to affect more than 30,000 children and help area school districts meet Illinois' curriculum standards. The award marks the eighth year the museum has received funding from the McCormick Foundation for early learning programming.

"Through our Learning Labs, field trips, and professional development, DuPage Children's Museum is influencing how students learn and affecting how teachers teach," said Margaret Hanly, the museum's director of education and outreach.

"With DCM-led open-ended classroom explorations, children who may have not succeeded with more traditional instruction often excel in our Learning Labs and school programs."

The grant funding also will leverage the museum as a community hub to support early learning experiences and reach underserved populations.

Through community partnerships with area Child Care Resource and Referral agencies; SPARK, or Strong, Prepared and Ready for Kindergarten, of Aurora; and statewide agencies such as One Hope United and Metropolitan Family Services (Head Start), DuPage Children's Museum is able to share hands-on, inquiry-based educational programming with families who otherwise may not have been able to visit the museum.

Additionally, the museum's Community Access Network provides an effective opportunity to manage more than 60 partnerships, explore special projects and provide museum passes and memberships to at-risk families.

"We are committed to funding initiatives that help Illinois communities and families address healthy development, parental support, and access to quality early childhood programs," said David Hiller, McCormick Foundation president and CEO.

"This is an exciting time for the early care and education field because it is now getting well-deserved attention on both the federal and state levels. What we need now is more action."

Acknowledging that early care and education initiatives are the best investments to ensure successful outcomes of all children, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation has invested more than $5 million in 17 nonprofit organizations in Illinois.

The grant portfolio, which spans two years, will support programs including principal preparation and early math instruction, access to common core learning standards, public policy and advocacy.

In an effort to increase support for Illinois' youngest children, nearly $1 million of the grants will go toward helping infants, toddlers and their families gain access to resources that promote healthy development.