The Children’s Museum of Central Oregon

Kayla Wopschall previews what’s in the works

By Jared Rasic

Kayla Wopschall has a vision for Bend, and it’s a beautiful one. Having frequented children’s museums across the country withcanstockphoto4364536 her family, she’s excited to bring a place of exploration and art to Bend for the little ones.  Since the closing of Working Wonders, the original children’s museum in the Old Mill District, a couple years ago, no one has filled this niche.  Wopschall would like to change that and has a very specific idea what a modern children’s museum would look like in Central Oregon. The Children’s Museum of Central Oregon has popped up at Fall Fest and a few other spots, but it would like to have a more permanent home in Bend.

Bend Nest: What was the initial spark for the children’s museum?

Kayla Wopschall: I moved from Seattle a little over two years ago. I have two small children, and we travel quite frequently
going to children’s museums all over. So, in Bend, something like this is definitely lacking in the community.  The community is so kid-oriented and such a super great place for families that it felt like something this was missing.

BN: When did you decide to start working on the idea of opening a museum?

KW: I started thinking that it would be a great fit for the community about a year ago. My background is in science education. I have my doctorate in archeology and I’m a big proponent, especially once I had small children, of taking my kids out of the classroom and letting them explore and experiment with the world around them. So that got me really interested in this age group. There was a children’s museum several years ago (Working Wonders) and we researched that extensively. I’m actually close friends with the owners, but our vision is quite a bit different from the way they approached it.

BN:  Where is the museum located?

KW: We don’t have a physical space yet. We made it public that we’re going forward with the idea and started fundraising about two and a half months ago. We really haven’t asked very many people for money yet. We’re putting all the other ducks in a row and founding the non-profit. We’ve been setting up at festivals and working with the Environmental Center, going into classrooms, doing science experiments related to energy, plus doing some art programming.

BN:  How will you get the word out?

KW: Right now we’re getting some examples of our programming out there, and we’re probably going to do an open house pop-up museum before the holidays. That way people get an idea of us and then we’re going to start pushing for a physical location. We’re looking for a very large space that is close to downtown. We have some options. We might open up smaller in the beginning with just the science and technology component, so we can bring classes in.

BN: Aside from the science and technology components, what else are you including in the museum?

KW: The science aspect has been what we’ve showcased the most at the festivals so far. But that’s just one aspect. We hope to have a big space for kids to do imaginative and creative play, as well. We plan to have three different sections. One will be the Mess Hall, which will be math, engineering and science stuff. This will be the most continually changing with hands-on activities and experiments.

Then there will be the studio arts/fine arts area. We hope to have a clay room, so during the day the room would be open with a staff member to help kids learn how to use the tools. Also, a painting room where kids could paint on literally anything in the room: the walls, the furniture, etc. We’ll also be building cardboard forts that they can paint on and create with.

Then I’ll have a performing arts area where kids can dress up, change the back-drop and perform for their parents. They can build their confidence and express themselves in front of groups of people.

Families will be able to use our resources, and kids can have a safe space. By “safe space” I mean a space where they can push the boundaries of exploring the world, where they can paint a wall and not get in trouble for it. Where they can express themselves and gain their confidence and learn who they are as a person at a pretty young age.

BN: When will you start to fundraise in earnest?

KW: We will be hosting a larger fundraiser, probably in conjunction with that pop-up museum space, most likely in early December. We would love to be able to have a space open next summer, but that’s a really aggressive time-line.

BN: Any final thoughts?

KW: Just that the Children’s Museum doesn’t only benefit small children. Even though we’re focusing our efforts there to begin with, it really benefits all age groups and the community as a whole.

We’re not interested in pricing people out of admission. We will make it as accessible to the Bend community as we possibly can. That’s a very big priority for us. We want to give back to our community and be a resource for all the people.

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