Between iPads and video games, it's clear that your kids are living in an electronic world. But when that little battery icon starts to blink or your house loses power, do they understand what it means or just whine about being bored?
That's where DuPage Children's Museum comes in. The new exhibit, AWESome Electricity!, helps with both the understanding and the boredom, thanks to interactive elements that explain how electrical power is generated and how electrical currents move. And it aims to point kids to the future by exploring alternate forms of energy.
"We know that children need to understand and care about something before they can think about implications for the environment," says Marcia MacRae, interdisciplinary arts specialist for the museum.
So the museum worked with a sculptor to create an exhibit that resembles something kids naturally love: an amusement park, full of bright lights and games. Kids can ride a bicycle to generate power, test the conductivity of different materials, race cars around a track, and even make acrobats go soaring through the air.
MacRae says the museum considers the exhibit a pilot, meaning it will continue to expand and change in the future. She says they hope one day to tie it into the museum's popular air and water exhibits to demonstrate how natural elements can help generate power.
Although AWESome Electricity! is aimed at kids 5 and up, MacRae says even the youngest children will have their interest piqued by the fun activities.
And the next time your child plugs the family laptop into a wall outlet, MacRae hopes he or she will think about where the electricity is coming from and how it is created-and then ideally, start to consider their own responsibilities as stewards of the earth.
"We want to generate interest in this topic because it is incredibly important, MacRae says. "When you start to get children involved and you connect with them, that's when they start to care. It needs to start early."
Elizabeth Diffin is the associate editor at Chicago Parent. She lives in Wheaton.
See more of Elizabeth's stories here.