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NAPERVILLE | Help! The Children's Museum Has Been Covered in a Mysterious Substance

DuPage Children’s Museum Enlists the Help of Students to Investigate and Identify a Black Goo Covering the Building in One of Two Exciting New STEM-Based Labs

In addition to the robust line up of existing Arts & STEM with DCM labs, DuPage Children’s Museum (DCM) is launching two new learning labs that are sure to excite and engage students across the region. The Mystery of the Suspicious Substance, for grades 2–4, has students plan and carry out an investigation using magnets to determine a solution to clean up a strange goo taking over DCM’s building. Nature’s Adventure, for grades 3–5, engages students in an animal role-playing card game to create a unique creature using specific traits as evidence to make a claim for how well their creature is adapted for survival.

“DCM recognizes its role as a key partner for schools, and through collaboration on something like Learning Labs, together we can foster a strong learning ecosystem to amplify student learning impact,” explains Jenny Flowers, DCM Sr. Manager of Student Learning & Community Engagement. “We know that Learning Labs are most impactful when the content is directly connected to what students are learning in school. We asked teachers where we could best support their curriculum and instruction plans. Educators indicated they were most interested in a magnet lab and an animals & environment lab.”

In developing any learning resource, the Museum starts with looking at the standards that teachers are responsible for teaching in a school year. In the case of both labs, and all Arts & STEM with DCM labs, DCM first reviewed the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) used to determine which core ideas, scientific practices, and crosscutting concepts will frame the labs. All Arts & STEM with DCM labs are NGSS aligned and embedded with multiple connections to Social Emotional Learning outcomes. These labs stand out as examples of how to put the students at the center of the learning process. Hands-on exploration and joyful discovery guided by DCM facilitators enhances the learning process by giving students the space to construct their own ideas and make meaning as they engage in the activities.

The student-driven Mystery of the Suspicious Substance lab supports students in authentically planning and carrying out an investigation, which is a key scientific practice. Flowers states, “It also has an incredible "wow" factor. Students literally gasp out loud when given a vial of the mysterious substance (ferrofluid), and they relish in making observations and sharing what they notice with their peers. Students will absolutely remember the experience.” This Lab goes well beyond how magnets are traditionally taught in school and still gets to the same learning outcomes in a student-centered and hands-on way.

Nature's Adventure provides students with a creative outlet to explore complicated scientific ideas of adaptation and survival. The gamification of the learning process allows students space to be both fantastical and grounded in science at the same time. While each student pieces together an imaginary creature based on cards they are dealt, they use scientific evidence to argue a claim for their survival, which is a very real and important scientific practice. “The amount of engagement in this Lab is incredible; students are sharing and debating ideas with passion and excitement,” noted Flowers.

A group of third and fourth grade students were very enthusiastic in sharing their thoughts regarding the Nature’s Adventure lab: "I learned about new animals that I have never seen or known about in my life - and that's 8 years!!!! And almost 9 by the way." "My very favorite part was the challenges and I loved working with you!" "I learned that I could work with my team to survive the difficult monster thing." "My favorite part was when we could be creative."

DCM was very intentional about grounding these learning lab activities in both standards and district scope and sequences. As a result, both Labs align well with what students are learning in the classroom. Given the hands-on and exploratory way students engage with the content of the Labs, students will be able to apply and transfer knowledge to a new context making the labs truly compliment in-school learning.

The two new labs are an addition to the five Arts & STEM with DCM learning labs created last year. DCM offers labs for grades K–5. Each 60-minute lab is led by an experienced DCM educator. Students are empowered to be the primary drivers of their own learning – by building, making, engineering, and experimenting their way through engaging STEAM challenges. Students explore their curiosity while making big discoveries about Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, and Art. All labs are currently available for booking. The new labs - The Mystery of the Strange Substance and Nature’s Adventure - begin running in January 2023. To learn more and request a reservation, visit

Everything the Museum does is framed through the lens of relationships, play, and joyful learning. Arts & STEM with DCM learning labs are supported by DuPage Foundation, Kinder Morgan Foundation, The Perma Seal Fund of DuPage Foundation, Rivers Gives, and US Bank. DCM is able to offer extraordinarily learning experiences through philanthropic support. To support unique learning opportunities at DuPage Children’s Museum, please visit:

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