The Kidzeum of Health and Science in Springfield has been awarded a $355,400 state grant to build a center to enhance science education. The Kidzeum, 412 E. Adams St., was one of 36 recipients receiving a total of $19.7 million by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to improve facilities and develop new exhibits across the state. Also on the list
The Kidzeum of Health and Science in Springfield has been awarded a $355,400 state grant to build a center to enhance science education.
The Kidzeum, 412 E. Adams St., was one of 36 recipients receiving a total of $19.7 million by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to improve facilities and develop new exhibits across the state.
Also on the list was the Springfield and Central Illinois African American History Museum, 1440 Monument Ave., which received a $662,545 grant for an expansion.
The Kidzeum will use its funds to renovate two vacant storefronts at 414 and 416 E. Adams to turn them into a lab center for STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics).
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“The project through IDNR will help bring the spaces to a ‘white box status’ and they’ll be flexible to use for programs, exhibits and education,” said Kidzeum executive director Leah Wilson. “The two storefronts have historic character but no care over the years to keep them in good condition, so we’re using the funding to bring them back to their former glory,”
The renovations have not started.
Last November, the STEAM residency program was launched by Kidzeum and Springfield School District 186 to improve science education with a goal of making it more engaging for elementary students. Through the residency, Kidzeum replaces a typical day of school by bringing second-graders to its location for STEAM learning and hands-on activities.
The grant through IDNR will allow the museum to use the space for STEAM programming. Before the grant, Wilson said the museum had to cut down on its hours because of COVID and not having enough safe space.
“We’re pulling it off but we’ve closed our museum Monday through Friday to the public and we’ve only functioned as an educational space. We use our existing classroom and our third-floor art exhibit gallery as a classroom but there’s still an exhibit around the edges, we just do education there,” she said.
Wilson said the renovated storefronts will allow educational activities to expand and create space for the public to engage in the museum. By restoring its tin ceilings, original hardwood floors, and doing other masonry work the museum will have space for a wide range of programming.
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“The idea is that we could host students in educational spaces but still have some hours where we’re open to the public during the week. Before COVID that’s what we did and now that we’ve been coming back from we’ve only been open to the public on weekends and serving the school district during week but with more space we’ll be able to do that at the same time,” Wilson said.
In addition to more space, the grant will help the museum expand its teaching content. After having community input sessions. it decided content flexibility was an improvement to be added.
“One of the things heard from visitors was that our content is excellent for younger kids but once they hit age 11 or 12 its not much to keep kids engaged. Having this opportunity to have more space means that we can bring additional content in for older kids as well. It really helps to expand our mission on a number of levels and that’s exciting,” Wilson said.
The museum grants are part of IDNR’s allocation of $27 million through Gov. JB Pritzker’s Rebuild Illinois capital program.
“Rebuilding Illinois means investing in all types of infrastructure that improve communities and the quality of life for local residents. That includes an investment in the museums that protect our cultural heritage and offer unique programs and events for visitors to enjoy,” Pritzker said in a release.
The grant is open to any museum operated by local government or located on municipally owned land. The maximum award is $750,000.
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