The Kidzeum of Health and Science and Illinois State Museum received good news. Both were awarded highly competitive grants from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). This is Kidzeum's first IMLS grant; the program is so competitive many small museums don't apply. The ISM has received numerous IMLS grants over the years.
The $178,928 Museums for America grant to the Illinois State Museum Society will support the museum's development of high-caliber, online learning experiences for Pre-K through grade 12 students. Funds will be used for training, digitization of collections materials and developing resources for education stakeholders to use in the classroom and after school. A teacher's advisory group will provide input. Staff training will help ensure the collections made accessible through this initiative are reviewed through a lens of diversity, equity, accessibility and inclusion. "We are excited to receive this competitive grant award to help us act inclusively and reimagine how we connect with museum audiences, educators and young people," said ISM Director Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko.
Kidzeum's $49,014 Inspire! grant for small museums will help fund a new partnership with District 186 to create a two-week immersive STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) residency for approximately 1,000 second-graders. The initiative will be launched at Kidzeum during the 2021-2022 school year. A collaborative STEAM project will build on Kidzeum exhibit content. Kidzeum is working to benefit young learners and their families by serving as a place for longer-term, immersive education programs. Southern Illinois University School of Medicine will provide project evaluation.
"We believe Kidzeum is more than a place to play. It is becoming an essential partner in education for Springfield," said Leah Wilson, Kidzeum executive director. "This project better leverages our start-up children's museum to address the need for STEM education in District 186 elementary schools."
Karen Ackerman Witter is a former associate director of the Illinois State Museum and former board president of Kidzeum. She has participated in American Alliance of Museums initiatives to advocate for federal funding for IMLS and highlight the benefits and results of IMLS grants.