A seed planted years ago by a group of passionate community members is starting to grow into a reality.
In 2015, the idea for a children’s museum in Central Oregon was formed.
“They founded the nonprofit in 2015 and began doing summer camps and pop-up museum events for the next three or four years up until the pandemic hit,” said Kenady Wilson, the Children’s Museum of Central Oregon board president.
Now, the board is seeking to take its vision even further through a brick-and-mortar museum based in Bend.
“In Central Oregon, we’re actually one of the only regions in the entire state of Oregon that does not have a children’s museum,” Wilson said. “There’s a museum down in Medford. Portland in the north has OMSI. There’s also a museum out in Pendleton now, there’s one in Klamath Falls. In Central Oregon is a huge hole, a big gap in informal education opportunities for the youngest kids in our community. So we’re going to fill that gap.”
The goal is to create a space for hands-on learning opportunities focused on STEAM topics- science, technology, engineering, art and math.
“Educators and parents all know this, but it’s actually kind of difficult to encourage those types of learning opportunities at home, especially if you don’t have those resources,” Wilson added. “And so that’s where children’s museums come in, and they provide the opportunity to have those informal education, play-based education opportunities for everybody in the community no matter what your resources are.”
The board has created a rough timeline, spanning through a projected opening day in 2026.
Even though opening day is a few years away, the current phase is a crucial step in the process.
“We did just kick off sort of an end of the year fundraising campaign. So our goal is to raise $100,000,” Wilson said. “This is our first big push for fundraising where we want to show that there is this large level of community support, and that money is going to go towards a museum master plan.”
The board will work with a museum planning firm which specializes in children’s museums and science museums to work out the logistics of the visitor experience and exhibits.
Members will then collaborate with an architect to design what the actual space would look like.
A location for all the learning is still up in the air.
“We have actually a number of really exciting opportunities on the table right now,” Wilson said. “Some of them are on the west side, somewhere on the east side. I don’t know if we’re going to name anything in particular just yet, but we are still keeping our options open and we are moving forward with a couple of them to really do a kind of site plan evaluation and see what’s going to work for us. But we are still open to other opportunities. If anybody has two to three acres they want to donate, because they want the museum in a particular place or they’re looking for to help out in some way.”
They also hope to add a mobile museum component to bring opportunities to children all across the high desert.
Eventually, they hope to hire ten full-time salaried employees.
The board is meeting with OMSI next month to receive direction and advice on bringing their vision to life.
For updates, and to donate to the cause, visit cmcoregon.org.