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Illusions compel us to view the world in a different way and can provide insights about how our brains process reality. Students visiting Chicago’s Museum of Illusions can immerse themselves in illusions as they explore more than 80 fun and educational exhibits.

The museum’s unique design encourages students to have fun while learning the science behind each illusion they experience. “We call ourselves an edutainment concept,” said Stacy Stec, marketing manager at Museum of Illusions. “We are a blend between a museum rooted in education and an entertainment venue.”

School groups representing a number of academic disciplines from health and life science to psychology and physics can find connections to their curriculum by exploring vision, perception and the human brain.

As visitors walk through the museum on their self-guided visit, framed optical illusions, holograms and hands-on exhibits like turntables and kaleidoscopes keep students engaged.

A Smart Playroom includes a series of dilemma games, manipulative and brain teasers to activate students’ problem-solving skills and inspire a little competition among friends. Staff members are on hand to answer questions or provide a hint for those particularly perplexing puzzles.

“Exhibits like the Ames Room are popular experiences for students,” Stec said. As students walk from one corner of the room to the other, they appear to grow and shrink. The illusion distorts perceptions about depth and has applications to camera techniques like forced perspective. “Staff are on hand with some expert tips on snapping the perfect, social media-worthy photo!”

Other great photo opportunities include the Beuchet Chair Illusion or Head on the Platter. Putting students right in the middle of these optical illusions motivates them to understand how it works. “It is fun to challenge your brain to see things from a different perspective,” Stec said. “We pride ourselves on explaining why you are seeing what you are seeing.”

The effects are inescapable in the must-do Vortex Tunnel. Students walk across a completely flat and stable surface as rotating lights and images confuse the body’s vestibular system, the sense of balance and spatial orientation that coordinates movement with balance.

The museum gift shop is a perfect stop to find a souvenir to take home the fun — from dilemma games to books about perception and the brain. 

The Museum of Illusions is located in the heart of downtown Chicago, making this interactive site a perfect way to round out a city-day itinerary.

Article by Michael McLaughlin

Main photo: Kaleidoscope Illusion, Credit: Museum of Illusions


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Published once a year, Youth Travel Planner magazine presents ideas for educators and tour planners to develop educational travel for middle and secondary/high school students.