Kohl Children’s Museum and My Family: Still Growing Together

My children and the Kohl Children’s Museum grew up together. The museum opened in 1985 in Wilmette on Green Bay Road, next to the Walker Bros. Pancake House, about the same time that the second of our six children was born and we moved to the North Shore.

We quickly discovered that a morning spent at the museum followed by a maple syrupy Walker Brothers lunch was the perfect family outing. I toddled my way through 4 more pregnancies and about two decades of such merriment.

Kohl Children's Museum

Image courtesy of Kohl Children’s Museum

What I didn’t appreciate then was that my family was enjoying the labors of a visionary educator who also was bringing educational best practices to under-resourced kids too: Dolores Kohl. Through her education foundation, Kohl opened teaching centers, supported arts and education programs around the world, and launched a traveling literacy program called StoryBus.

“Children are the messages we send to generations that we will never see,” Kohl declared during my 2011 interview with her as explanation for her determined efforts, her blue eyes twinkling. Kohl is pretty brilliant. She’s brilliantly pretty, too.

The museum grew from one of the original teaching centers. The messages my kids absorbed there through interactive exhibits helped them learn to think critically, develop confidence, and become life-long readers and learners. The message that the world absorbed was that the museum was such a valuable resource it needed to grow. So Kohl stepped aside from her daily activities at the museum and hired strategic and persuasive Sheridan Turner as the next President and CEO. Turner had previously led a highly successful Museum of Science and Industry expansion.

In 2005, Kohl Museum moved to a new and much larger facility in Glenview. Turner gives substantial credit for this accomplishment to Rick Waddell, who served as Chairman of the museum’s board of trustees during the expansion. “We simply couldn’t have accomplished all of this without Rick’s extraordinary leadership,” Turner declares proudly.

Kohl Children’s Museum celebrates its 30th Anniversary this coming school year with a plethora of activities—starting with a September kick-off party at the stunning Burdeen’s Jewelry in Buffalo Grove, a not to be missed October 17 gala, and a Make It Better Shop For Good partnership just in time for holiday shopping.

Kohl Museum now serves over 330,000 visitors annually, provides extensive outreach programs in Chicagoland and beyond, consistently ranks as one of the top 10 children’s museums in the country, and is about to launch a pioneering program for veterans and their families.

Dolores Kohl’s vision has already touched an extraordinary number of children and families. The ripple effect to future generations will be a substantial gift to the world. And the museum is still growing.

Fortunately for me, our family is still growing too. The next generation was born in time to share in the 30th celebration too. I’m excited to take my grandson to the museum soon. I’ll miss having Walker Brothers right next door for a mighty dose of maple syrup though.

Make It Better is proud to be the media sponsor of the entire year of 30th Anniversary celebration activities. If the museum has touched your family too, we hope you will share the good news about this, and join us at one of the events, too.

Thank you.