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Hinsdale, Illinois |

Published Feb. 5, 2009                                                         

Robert Crown's exhibits change with the times

  By Christine Cuthbert

   The Hinsdale Health Museum opened in 1958 with 13 exhibits. They mainly focused on single components of the body, such as the brain, ear and eye and were designed for self-guided visits. Half a century later the 3-D exhibits remain at the Robert Crown Center, as it is known today. But Executive Director Kathleen Burke said teachers now incorporate them into engaging lessons.
   “Back then there were displays and the kids went through on their own,” Burke said. “It was an educational experience as much as they or their teachers made it. Now it’s a much more interactive experience designed for that specific class who is attending.”
   Robert Crown currently has seven classrooms and one theater of exhibits. The center has expanded its field to include sex education, drug abuse prevention, peer pressure and body image programs.
   “I think the exhibits have changed to address the decision-making that children are now faced with,” Burke said. “We use the exhibits to help them figure out what to say in certain situations and what’s going to come up in their lives.”
   Having skilled teachers interacting with the students helps them gain much more from their visit to the center, she said.
   “The teachers can identify what that particular child needs based on the questions they ask or by asking them questions,” Burke said. “So you have a class that’s built much more on inquiry. No questions are off limits. The instructors are completely comfortable and they create an experience of trust with the students right off the bat. That’s something you couldn’t do with an exhibit.”
   Along with topical changes to cater to today’s youth, Valeda, also known as the glass lady, is finally having some “plastic surgery” work done after 50 years. In order to bring her up to date with the current times, Valeda’s having several LED lights replaced and will soon speak Spanish as well. Burke expects Valeda’s transition to be completed this year and said plasma screens will also join her in the theater.
   The changes in the way children interact with exhibits has not changed the fundamental message of health education, according to Burke.
   “The next avenue that you’ll see us expand is working really hard to access kids early and teach then good prevention,” Burke said. “It’s something that has to start early and it has to be continual through their whole lives.”


       Making a Difference is a yearlong partnership between The Hinsdalean
and the Robert Crown Center for Health Education, which works
to teach and motivate youth to lead healthy, happy and safe lives.



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