Aug 10, 2022

READI Grant Puts Kids and Creativity at the Forefront in Southeast Indiana

When Emili Uden, Executive Director of Batesville’s Kids Discovery Factory, heard about Indiana’s READI grant program, she assumed Batesville would pursue the opportunity and asked city leaders to consider including her unique children’s learning program in the request.


“I think southeast Indiana is the best place to live,” said Uden, who is originally from suburban Chicago. “It’s a place where you can count on your neighbors and people care.” Uden is thrilled that people in the community are coming together and prioritizing Kids Discovery Factory. “I think having a children’s amenity like this adds to the charm and value of living here.” 


“They said, ‘we’re way ahead of you,’” said Uden. 

Batesville leaders were well aware of Kids Discovery Factory and its potential benefit to the community. In fact, the city had already committed $1 million to the organization over five years. Now that Uden and her colleagues have another $1 million thanks to READI, they are confident they’ll be able to secure another $5 million necessary to create an attraction unique in downtown Batesville that supports kids and families in southeast Indiana. Kids Discovery Factory is expected to attract 30,000 visitors a year and reignite regional tourism.

Community members who dreamed of having a children’s museum in Batesville started the non-profit back in 2009. In 2014, they paused the effort to reassess their mission and found, through community forums and surveys, that there was demand for an attraction that would promote STEAM learning.

Promoting STEAM—science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics—among kids and families in the region is now the primary mission of Uden and her colleagues, who got a big lift in 2020 when Batesville Tool & Die gifted them a historic downtown building and an adjacent lot.

Kids Discovery Factory launched a traveling children’s museum in 2017, which has reached 17,000 kids, but the real estate donation gave them a base of operations that could become an attraction in southeast Indiana.

Uden said they’ve welcomed more than 1,400 visitors to the first floor of the three-story building since it opened in February. The attraction, called the Early Explorers program, is open three hours a week and one Saturday a month. It also hosts school field trips and private rentals.

All the action is on the first floor, because the building lacks an elevator. The upgrade that READI will help pay for will add one, along with office space, allowing the organization to use all three floors. Uden said several interactive exhibits are in the works. They will range from interactive arts areas to a more expensive display where kids will be able to interact with child-friendly versions of equipment you might find on a factory floor.  

All the exhibits will give kids the opportunity to innovate, get messy and explore the world around them, Uden said. “Kids are naturally creative, but sometimes they don’t have access to places where they can do that.”

When finished in late 2024 or 2025, Kids Discovery Factory will have 10,000 square feet of exhibits and an outdoor water feature and play area in the vacant lot adjacent to the building.

This article was featured in the August 2022 edition of the IEDC’s newsletter. Subscribe today.