September 14, 2019

WonderLab Science Night Out


Saturday, September 14, 2019


Thank you, Dionne!

I love WonderLab. I love it so much that I agreed to speak AFTER the amazing Dr. Linda Smith and those wonderful videos! I learned very early in my adult life that it’s impossible to compete with babies – on every level. Just give it up.

Linda’s research is so compelling, underscoring just how crucial those early months and years are, serving as further reinforcement for why Science Sprouts Place is a very welcome addition to the rich array of exhibits and learning experiences at WonderLab.

Michael and I have been proud supporters of WonderLab since each of us moved to Bloomington – it reinforces so much of what we believe in and have dedicated our own lives to: the importance of scientific and numeric literacy, the joy of the search for truth, and the importance of early learning. We believe strongly that the earlier children have positive experiences with science and numbers, the more likely they are to be the problem solvers of the future, because problem-solving relies on the kinds of logic and methodology that science and math teaches us.

Babies and numbers

Tonight’s theme is the beauty of math… and the beauty of babies. These might seem like disparate topics, but they connect in a very real and important way, and that’s through the statistics on early learning. Quality early learning experiences are directly correlated with numerous positives later in life, such as success in school and beyond, greater economic success, and lower social negatives, like crime and poverty. Most of us in the room tonight are here because we know this and because we ensured that our own children would have those experiences – indeed, we likely had those experiences ourselves.

But as we also know, many children, including here in Bloomington and Monroe Country, do not. And it’s even more important for children in disadvantaged families to have these experiences, given the greater likelihood of negative social outcomes later in life.

As James Heckman, Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago and an Economics Nobel Laureate puts it:

“The highest rate of return in early childhood development comes from investing as early as possible, from birth through age five, in disadvantaged families. Starting at age three or four is too little, too late, [because] skills beget skills in a complementary and dynamic way. Efforts should focus on the first years for the greatest [benefit].”

So, investing in early childhood education for at-risk children is an effective strategy for reducing social costs. And it’s a cost-effective strategy for promoting economic growth for all families. Communities that invest in quality early learning can expect a return of $4 to $7 for every $1 spent on early learning programs, and communities will benefit from future citizens who vote, pay taxes, and raise families. The key is high-quality early learning, like the programs WonderLab offers. Children who get these high-quality experiences are more likely to succeed in school, to graduate, and to earn as much as 60% more over a lifetime. And those benefits are amplified by exposure to science, discovery, exploration, experimentation – all of the kinds of activities that WonderLab offers, and that support success in STEM disciplines later in life.

We have almost 8.000 children under the age of five in Monroe County, but only 15% of them are enrolled in high quality early learning programs. Resources like WonderLab can help fill the gap for children whose families don’t have access to high quality day care or pre-K programs, and even for those that do, WonderLab deepens their positive experiences with science, math and technology, all crucial areas for success in our 21st century world.

Babies and scientists

But enough of numbers! WonderLab is a treasure, an invaluable resource for our community that reaches well beyond Bloomington – every single zip code in Monroe county is represented in the visitor logs, and in 2017, visitors came from 89 of Indiana’s 92 counties and from 48 of the 50 states!

Children are natural explorers. Wonderlab has always been – and with your help, always will be – the place for children to let their imaginations and their inventiveness run free. And now, WonderLab is the place where babies can be scientists too. Take a look at what Science Sprouts Place will mean for our youngest children.

Thank you.