Portland Children’s Museum, Oregon, America

After the longest day of travel we had ever engaged in, 3 countries over 24 daylight hours, the best hot chocolate we’ve ever had and a lost bag, we made it to America, warped in a time zone mash.

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With a week before the AERO (Alternative Education Resource Organisation) conference and crashendo of our trip, recovering from our jet lag and experiencing as much as we could of the city of Portland were on the agenda.

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We visited the Portland Children’s museum early on in the week and after a full day inside its captivating walls, we promised the kids we would return again.

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The Museum prides itself on being different, a museum that holds the experience of children and the adults who care for them as priority over and above anything they could collect or exhibit. Play is the language and the message of the museum who’s exhibits only come alive in the hands of the willing child’s imagination.

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The vetenary hospital

The museum is also home to the Opal School, a preschool and elementary school inspired by the early childhood schools of Reggio Emilia. Due to summer holidays we were unable to experience the school in action however being in its playground (the museum) we experienced a clear reflection of the schools values.

“The child has a hundred languages, a hundred hands, a hundred thoughts, a hundred ways of thinking, of playing, of speaking … and a hundred, hundred more.” 

Loris Malaguzzi, founder of the early childhood centers in Reggio Emilia, Italy

Here we were also able to have our first taste of a Maker Studio. As ourselves crafty humans with a love of and respect for the learning that can come from making, the maker space movement had ignited both curiosity and intrigue. The museums maker studio presents its visitor with scissors, glue guns, hammers, nails, wood, paper, fabric and other odds and ends ready to be transformed into a physical product of ones imagination. Basil was in heaven, with the glue gun being his tool of choice to construct with. I resisted the somewhat ingrained voice of scarcity here as Basil’s creations, developed with freedom, used every last small timber off cut left in the box. Here the space was his to explore, no fear based restrictions were welcome but to the contary his imagination actively encouraged to shine and manifest.

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Basil and his machine

Next to the maker studio is the clay studio. Come grab a piece of clay or 2 and get to it, is the moto here with both staff and volunteers on hand to help if help is needed.

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I loved this place! It again felt like a necessary piece of our puzzle. The space for children to engage here felt only limited by their adults ability to let go and release the child into the experience. The museum staff presented as allies to the small people always open to engaging in honest communication.

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Several days after our initial visit to the museum we found a glue gun at a flea market. With a bag full of treasure collected from the streets of Portland in hand, Basil set up his mini maker studio in our hotel room and got busy.

 

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