Redesigned Wonder Room at DuPage Children’s Museum opens as a calming nature-inspired space

On Friday, Dec. 15, the DuPage Children’s Museum, 301 N. Washington St. in Naperville, held the opening celebration for the redesigned Wonder Room.

As a calming, nature-inspired space, the Wonder Room offers guests a place to pause for some respite while being inspired and feeling a sense of awe.

The project started with conversations involving several of the museum’s community partners. It held focus groups with organizations who serve people with sensory needs and museum member families who attend Adaptive Play Time – dedicated museum hours that provide a modified environment for play and learning intended for families with disabilities, on the autism spectrum, and/or sensory processing disorders.

Through these listening sessions, it became clear that a calming space where guests could have a sense of quiet wonder amid the exciting museum experiences was needed.

The ideas of wonder and playful nature experiences took several twists and turns through the exhibit development process.

DuPage Children's Museum’s Exhibit Team and Artist that worked to create the redesigned Wonder Room from concept to build to completion. Front row: Lexi Elias, exhibit apprentice; back row, from left: Duncan Robinson, exhibit maker; Greg Johnson, exhibit technician; Kimberly Stull, chief of building & making; Dustin Thacker, arts & maker specialist; Rachel Davis, artist; and Mike Marconi, building engineer(Courtesy of DuPage Children's Museum) Courtesy of DuPage Children's Museum

Arts & Maker Specialist Dustin Thacker led this project, working with the museum exhibits and graphics teams, Squawk Productions video design company, and local artist Rachel Davis.

“We’ve been busy dreaming up and creating a brand new Wonder Room,” Thacker said. “We look forward to all guests finding a moment of peace in this thoughtful and beautifully designed space.”

The outcome offers a truly immersive experience.

Upon entering the space, guests are met with tranquil music, dimmed lighting, and images of landscapes projected on the wall.

The video design was implemented by Squawk Productions, a video production company specializing in outstandingly creative content.

As children play at the sensory panels, they feel river rocks (pictured), tree branches, prairie grass and other representations– such as water, the night stars, and sunshine. (Courtesy of DuPage Children's Museum) Courtesy of DuPage Children's Museum

“While creating the visuals for the Wonder Room, we took inspiration from all the textures the Midwest landscape has to offer. We wanted to play with scale, projecting what it feels like to experience all of these natural elements up close while also celebrating the patterns and beauty nature offers from a distance. By interacting with the tactile panels, viewers are welcomed to combine and overlay these elements - such as stones and clouds or tree bark and shooting stars - to create their own, unique landscapes,” Sam and Caitlin of Squawk Productions shared.

In addition to the tactile sensory panels activating the overlay of images, the room is filled with natural wonder. Loose parts in the exhibit add more hands-on play, while the beautifully lit sound panel mural and hand crafted live-edge bench extenuates the dreamy, yet grounded, feel of the room.

A bookshelf full of nature-inspired reading and big squishy seating round out the room as a relaxing place for quiet contemplation.

Ribbon cutting at the opening celebration for the Wonder Room at DuPage Children’s Museum. From left: Andrea Ingram, Kimberly Stull, Greg Johnson, Lexi Elias, Duncan Robinson, Dustin Thacker, Mayor Scott Wehrli, Congressman Bill Foster, state Rep. Janet Yang-Rohr, Naperville City Council Member Jennifer Bruzan Taylor, and Naperville City Council Member Allison Longenbaugh. (Courtesy of DuPage Children's Museum) Courtesy of DuPage Children's Museum

The opening of the redesigned Wonder Room was celebrated with many friends of the museum including Naperville Mayor Scott Wehrli as well as city council members and legislators U.S. Rep. Bill Foster and state Rep. Janet Yang-Rohr.

Special guests, students from Little Friends in Warrenville, were among the first children invited to play.

Lori Deichstetter, vice president of Educational Services, Little Friends, observed that some of their most difficult to engage students were actively involved in exploring the different elements of the Wonder Room.

The museum has something for everyone! Visit DuPage Children’s Museum and experience the Wonder Room for yourself. Visit

The Wonder Room is supported by the Dunkin’ Joy in Childhood Foundation and a grant from City of Naperville Special Events and Community Arts (SECA) Fund.

The DuPage Children’s Museum helps develop curiosity, creativity, thinking, and problem solving in young children through its mission to nurture joyful discovery and learning. Interactive exhibits and programs make learning fun for children and adults playing together. It reaches over 500,000 people annually; visitors hail from all 50 states and 575 ZIP codes in Illinois. The museum’s impact extends across cultural, financial, and educational boundaries well beyond the Chicago area. The museum endeavors to ensure that all children thrive through access to extraordinary learning experiences. For details, visit or call (630) 637-8000.

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