WonderLab has received a $26,000 grant through the Youth Program Resilience Fund (YPRF) of Lilly Endowment Inc. to aid in addressing COVID-19 related expenses. The museum was one of the youth-serving organizations chosen out of many to receive this grant, and will use the funds to address various costs that have arisen due to the pandemic, as well as plan for the future to continue to safely serve the community.

Some of the costs that WonderLab plans to offset with the YPRF includes increased staffing, additional personal protective equipment, cleaning products, and other supplies needed to maintain and sanitize the exhibits. WonderLab is also looking at options for the addition of new exhibits that better suit the current needs of social distancing and frequent sanitization.

During the time that WonderLab was closed to the public from March to August, the museum underwent extensive modifications within the building, including the addition of an air purification system to improve air quality. All exhibits were evaluated for their ability to allow for social distancing and continual cleaning, and some exhibits have been temporarily removed. WonderLab also decided to add the Big Piano exhibit early on in the shutdown, which allows for hands-free playing.

Aspects of certain exhibits were shifted to accommodate a single-family experience. Families are provided with kits of materials for exhibits that would typically have shared components, so that they can be fully sanitized between use.

“Our team has optimized all of our exhibits to best fit within the COVID guidelines of being easy to clean and low-touch,” said WonderLab Executive Director Karen Jepson-Innes. “It’s quite labor intensive to operate in this new environment, so we’re planning that some of the Lilly funds can support that additional time it takes to do things in a safer way.”

The grant to WonderLab is one of 297 that Lilly Endowment has made through the Youth Program Resilience Fund to help youth-serving organizations across Indiana adapt their work to challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Grants from this fund are part of more than $210 million in grants Lilly Endowment has made to help organizations serve individuals and communities amid the pandemic.

With the support of the Youth Program Resilience Fund of Lilly Endowment Inc., WonderLab will be able to continue to serve the south-central Indiana community by providing safe opportunities to experience the wonder and excitement of science. WonderLab will continue to re-imagine ways to carry out this mission while maintaining the health and safety of all visitors. “In this year where science, technology, and health matter more than ever to our daily lives… it’s really important to keep that access available to children and families,” said Jepson-Innes. She also says that WonderLab has provided a place for familiarity and community connection during this time, even if it looks a bit different than before.

Jepson-Innes stated that the reason that youth-serving organizations are making it through this time is because of foundations like the Lilly Endowment Inc. “I cannot be more grateful for their vision to address this issue… the fact that the Lilly foundation has stepped up to fill that gap is what will keep us going.”

WonderLab is an award-winning science museum located at 308 W. Fourth St. on the B-Line Trail in Bloomington, Indiana. General admission is $10, and children younger than one are free. Due to Covid-19 the museum is open limited days and times. For the most up-to-date information go to wonderlab.org or WonderLab’s Facebook page.

Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based, private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by J. K. Lilly and his sons, Eli and J.K. Jr., through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company. While those gifts remain the financial bedrock of the Endowment, the Endowment is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff and location. In keeping with its founders’ wishes, the Endowment supports the causes of community development, education, and religion, and it maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis, and home state, Indiana.