Spark is a destination for families that combines diversified opportunities including innovation education, social interactions, play, entertainment, and café fare that will create substantial drawingpower to Urbana-Champaign and beyond. Spark will provide a safe, clean, and stimulating environment for children to play, explore, and learn about innovation. Spark will be a visually open area that will ensure children’s safety while challenging them to create, think, interact, explore, and have fun.


Spark is the first and only establishment in the region that combines active play, education, entertainment, and organic food options for children and families in Champaign County. Consider it a destination for play dates, a respite for parents, a place to engage with children and family, or all of the above with special events. Researchers have evidenced the importance of parental involvement in children’s development and learning. “When schools, families, and community groups work together to support learning, children tend to do better in school, stay in school longer, and like school more.” (A New Wave of Evidence, Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (2002).


Spark’s primary focus is children’s education, play, and healthy cafe options. Equally as important, Spark will fill an important social need for parents and caregivers. Adults will enjoy free Wi-Fi, magazines, relaxing, socializing with friends, meeting new friends, and café fare. Parental enjoyment is one of the founding principles!


Through Spark’s mission of innovation, the education thread of all exhibits will include creative problem solving and thinking as the narrative for exhibits and programming. All visitors will enjoy exhibits and the safe, clean, non-commercial and climate-controlled environment for children to learn, play and explore and have fun while stimulating their imagination and giving them a space for physical activity. The space is designed based on the premise that parents enjoy spending time with their children and other adults, and they want to encourage play and educational activities. Children will be given opportunities to develop basic motor skills, social skills, creative-problem solving, and self-confidence. Furthermore, parents will enjoy hours of close interaction with theirchildren and other adults in stimulating and stress-free environment that is affordable and rewarding.


Exhibits will support the active child and curious adult with explorations in color, sound, light, emotion, music, balance, and dramatic play using established old-school practices as well as modern learning techniques. Spark activities will challenge and develop children’s creativity, imagination, thinking skills, and social skills.

Additionally, Spark will provide a multitude of opportunities for parents to play with their children. By actively engaging with their children during play, parents not only promote the benefits of play, they also get to know their kids better and strengthen the parent-child bond.



Spark will be located in Lincoln Square in Urbana, Illinois. The space offers a barrier free entrance, convenient restrooms, and ADA-compliant ramps. There is ample and unrestricted free parking for patrons with a low-hassle experience getting to and from the Museum.



For additional information or assistance in obtaining interviews, please contact:

Sonya Darter, Executive Director,, (217) 721.8162

Megan Gillette, Associate Director,, (217) 649.8999


Sonya Darter, Executive Director

Ms. Darter has over 20 years’ experience in not-for-profit management, museum leadership, interactive and education events, exhibit design, and annual strategic and creative planning. Sonya has worked in multiple local museums and looks forward to serving and playing with community members at Spark Museum + Play Café. Additionally, Sonya has worked with Lumen Events on event management and planning services for corporate, private, and public events. Over the last several years, Ms. Darter enjoyed facilitating the implementation of transportation-related innovations to a national audience.


Megan Gillette, Associate Director

Ms. Gillette has a multi-disciplinary background in event management, graphic and environmental design, marketing, retail sales, and strategic re-branding of real estate properties. She is the creative force behind re-branding Lincoln Square Mall and The Prairie Glass House. Most recently, Megan is contributing her expertise and skills towards the opening of Spark Museum + Play Café. Ms. Gillette’s experience also parlays on a personal level with weddings, corporate events, trade shows, and private parties.



As stated in The Case for Children’s Museums developed by the Association of Children’s Museums, children’s museums are unique places that bring children, families, and communities together for quality interaction. Offering lifelong learning opportunities for audiences as tender as newborns, children’s museums are vital cultural institutions.  Serving as beacons amid a frenzied environment, children’s museums celebrate play and creativity; provide activities that nurture family relationships; establish common ground in communities; collaborate with traditional educational and social service organizations; and build creative communities that improve the quality of life. Grounded in well-established pedagogy, children’s museums are leading a movement that combines specific learning objectives with play in informal learning environments. As highly desirable meeting places and as proponents of play, children’s museums bring a world of possibilities to families who want the best for their children.

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