The non-profit Kidzeum of Health and Science in Springfield is using Paycheck Protection Program funds to stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The kid-centric museum has been retooling its programs and operations to meet the challenge COVID-19 presents - educating children while ensuring safety.
Executive Director Leah Wilson said the museum is still figuring out how to make that work.
“Like a lot of other organizations, we are in a position, whether we want to be in it or not, of completely reimagining what we do as an institution and how we do it and how we fund it,” Wilson said.
Wilson said the museum previously applied for a $50,000 grant with the city, but Springfield city council has so far left it in committee.
She said the museum’s Paycheck Protection Program funds will help retain staff and fund things like virtual summer camps and science kits.
“Right now we're providing science kits, through partnerships with other organizations and schools, to help kids who need those materials the most and can benefit from them the most to have some wonderful STEM activities to do at home,” Wilson said.
“We're also trying to alleviate parents because we know a lot of them are juggling a lot. They're trying to be teachers and also [have to] be on Zoom calls and get work done and it's a strain.”
Wilson explained the museum’s forthcoming summer programs will be designed to ensure no children are exposed to the virus.
“If we can have them in person, but there are restrictions, how do we manage those restrictions on-site?” she said. “If we can't have them in person, can we make them strong enough, compelling enough and interactive enough that they are valuable as online summer camps?”
The Kidzeum may be collaborating with the Lincoln Memorial Garden and the Springfield Park District on upcoming programs. In an effort to meet social distancing requirements, Wilson said the museum may host summer programs outside under staff supervision.
When it’s allowed to reopen, Wilson said the museum is preparing for crowd control and “aggressive sanitation schedules.”
“We're assuming that we're going to use a time-ticketing system so that we can monitor the number of people in the building and keep them spread out,” Wilson said. “We'll change our traffic flow through the buildings so that people are not bottlenecked at entrance and exit points, and we'll probably close down during a portion of the day to do some additional sanitation to help alleviate the concern that many people will feel coming back to museums that are high-touch, as we say.”
Upcoming exhibits will be designed to teach kids the importance of keeping yourself well during the pandemic.
“The Department of Public Health can tell us as parents, ‘here's what you should do to keep your children safe,’” Wilson said. “But a museum can take that information and create playful, engaging content that is accessible for children of multiple ages, makes it fun, and hopefully even gets kids excited about some of the things that they can do to keep themselves and other people healthy.”