Almost everyone — men, women, children — sits in front of computer screens, television monitors, tablets, cell phones, captivated by the images in front of them.
But the Cole Children’s Museum in Glenview is encouraging kids to take a more active role in technology, with a big help from the Dover Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Donner Grove Dover Corporation.
“It’s really turning them into creators of technology rather than consumers of technology,” said Stephanie Baim, Cole’s vice president of programs.
Technology, she explained, is about more than computers, an aspect reflected in the Dover Tech Play Lab, which started before the pandemic and is now a permanent feature at the Cole Children’s Museum.
Sewing machines appeared in February. Before that was “Code-a-Pillar,” where kids learned about sequencing and coding to make a toy move, play music, and do other fun things.
Now through April 7, kids and adults alike can interact with the programmable sensory robots “Dot and Dash” at the Dover Tech Play Lab.
By issuing commands, kids can program the colorful robots to move, change directions, and navigate mazes.
Helping a museum education professional team or doing it themselves, quick learners introduce coding concepts such as sequencing, hypotheses, memory, and editing.
At the Kohl’s Children’s Museum, child-operated robots travel through play bricks.
– Joe Lewnard Staff photographer
“We are pleased to support the important learning space at the Cole Children’s Museum,” said Adrian Sakowicz, president of the Dover Foundation, an international producer of diversity.
“The Dover Foundation is committed to supporting educational efforts like our own Dover Scholars program, and we believe this is another way to promote initiatives that improve STEM experiences for children,” Sakovich said.
Presenting STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) concepts in developmentally appropriate settings, these projects are hands-on — and Kohl’s is always researching and experimenting with new ones like green screen technology. Bynum said.
“It’s developing a mindset and a sense of resilience that kids need throughout life, because the technology will last, it won’t go away,” she said.
While Baim’s educational background is in child development, when planning the Dover Tech Play Lab, the museum worked with people outside of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Tufts University to design what the program would look like, she said.
The lab is separated by movable partitions, typically four flexible spaces with tables, chairs and monthly themed technology, such as Dot and Dash.
Lincoln Fitch, 5, works with a robot at the Cole Children’s Museum Tuesday in Glenview.
– Joe Lewnard Staff photographer
Each place is reserved for a family “pod” designed for children from 2 years old. An education specialist is assigned to each family if they need a little help.
“Some families like to do it on their own, others like more guidance,” Bynom said.
The Dover Tech Play Lab is available Tuesday through Thursday afternoons at 12:30, 1:30 and 2:30 pm. and Friday at 9:30 a.m. for members only, as well as sessions at 10:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. at the museum, 2100 Patriot Blvd.
Because it’s an “extremely popular program,” Baim says, reservations for Play Lab are required, but free, and can be made at Cole’s front desk upon check-in.
“There’s a lot of energy in the room,” Bayim said.
Technology is not a passive activity at Kohl’s Dover Tech Play Lab.
“Technology, especially computers, just do what we tell them to do,” Bym said. “And that’s an important lesson for young kids to understand — and for all of us to understand. We want kids to be creators and creators, not just users of technology.”