Q&A With Sheridan Turner, President and CEO of Kohl Children's Museum

A child explores and creates at the museum. (Photo courtesy of Kohl Children's Museum.)

Kohl Children’s Museum is beloved throughout the Chicago area for its 17 hands-on interactive exhibits that inspire learning through play. From shopping and checkout in the beloved Whole Foods Market grocery store to splashing in Water Works, the Glenview museum’s exhibits have sparked the imaginations of millions of visitors since the current facility opened in 2005.

Make It Better is honored to enjoy a longstanding, proud partnership with the museum and we’re delighted to share with our readers this first in a series of Q&As that provide a platform for our valued partners to tell the world about the great philanthropic work they are doing through their businesses and in their communities. Please meet Kohl Children’s Museum President and CEO Sheridan Turner:

Sheridan Turner, Kohl Children's Museum

Sheridan Turner (Photo by Todd Rosenberg.)

Make It Better: Briefly describe your business/organization philosophy.

Sheridan Turner: We were founded on the unshakeable belief that every child deserves to discover the transformational power of creativity and imagination. This is an extraordinary play space that brings the world down to size for children and lets them rule the world. Every one of our 17 interactive exhibits is a play station that ignites curiosity, inspires imagination, and stirs creativity with exciting learning experiences that engage and nurture young minds. Our museum’s exhibits, programs, and activities are all based on best thinking, research, and practices. Our job is to harness the power of play and use it to jump-start the next generation. We are an incubator for transforming young minds into creative thinkers, learners, and leaders.

Which product (or service) that you offer is your favorite, and why?

Our annual memberships give parents the most flexibility so that they can explore the museum as many times as they like during the year when their schedules suit them. Membership allows families to make attending the museum and having impactful experiences part of the fabric of their daily lives.

Tell us about how your organization gives back to the community and which organizations or initiatives you’re most passionate about supporting. Why is that important to your organization?

The museum has numerous community access programs to ensure inclusion and diversity of audience. We offer special days exclusively for military families to bond as a family unit, and mornings just for families with children with special needs (physical, cognitive, and social-emotional). In addition, we pioneered a pop-up museum concept in 2018 designed to bring enriching museum experiences right into communities that need it most. The program debuted with a one-month pilot museum in a storefront gallery space in downtown Waukegan, and welcomed nearly 2,500 children, parents, and educators to engage in high-quality exhibits — right in their own backyard. Making it feel like “their” museum is of utmost importance to us, especially with families who may have difficulty traveling the distance to our home facility in Glenview. We expect to expand the program by taking the pop-up out to three locations for a total of six months during the coming year.

Kohl Children's Museum: City on the Move

Kohl Children’s Museum’s City on the Move exhibit (Photo courtesy of Kohl Children’s Museum.)

How has your organization adapted to support the demands of consumers for more sustainable and socially responsible products and services?

The museum is an exceptionally “green” building, having earned silver-level LEED (leaders in Energy and Environmental Design) status when we opened. For example, we use carpet tiles made from recycled materials that can be replaced one at a time, rather than having to replace the whole carpet. We’ve changed the lighting to more efficient LED lighting and installed clerestory windows that follow the path of the sun during winter months to allow in the maximum amount of natural light.

We believe that we’re all better together. Tell us which businesses or individuals in the community you love to work with and support.

We love working with the Glenview Park District to take advantage of the rich history that Glenview offers through partnerships with Wagner Farm Museum, The Grove historic district, and the Air Station Prairie. And of course, we wouldn’t be able to survive without the support of many local funders who support our mission of education for young children; the number of community partners is far too long to list here, but some of the local standouts are Astellas, Wintrust, ITW, Anixter, Northern Trust, Wells Fargo, Advocate Children’s Hospital, and Allstate. On programming, we work closely with local cultural gems, like Writers Theatre, Chicago Botanic Garden, and Ravinia Festival.