Who We Are: Our Name Says It Best
A museum’s name tells you a lot about what it treasures.
You hear the name—art museum, history museum, automobile museum—and you immediately know what you’ll find there: objects, rare and wonderful; encounters with the unusual; beauty for beauty’s sake. The specifics differ, but in each case, the collection takes center stage.
Our name shows what we treasure, too, and it tells you how we were different.
Portland Children's Museum was a museum that didn’t act like a museum because our audience—children and the adults who care for them—was more important to us than anything we collect. Indeed, our audience was the essential component that gave our exhibits meaning.
Instead of investing in precious objects, we used familiar materials to craft invaluable opportunities for children to learn through play. Our approach was inspired by the early childhood schools of Reggio Emilia, Italy; built on inquiry-based learning strategies; and influenced by a strong image of children as intelligent, creative, and resourceful.
Our Mission: To develop innovative problem-solvers through playful learning experiences that strengthen relationships between children and their world.
Our Vision: We envisioned a world where everyone retains and values the innate curiosity, creativity, and empathy of childhood.
Our Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion: In the Portland metro area, 47% of students are children of color. At Portland Children's Museum, we strived for guest and school families to reflect that diversity, and for our staff and board to be equally diverse. We were committed to eliminating barriers to access and equity and saw a diverse workforce as a key step toward this goal. We actively sought to recruit, hire, promote, and retain a diverse workforce—one that welcomed and engaged people from every background. We valued our staff members, volunteers, and board members and their individual backgrounds, which furthered our ability to serve and learn from the diverse families that enrich our community.
We create experiences and share what we learn
Every day, and with every encounter, we co-created our exhibits with our audience. Children are active participants in their world, so we invited them to be active participants in everything at the Museum. We constantly learned from our audience and used what we learned to improve our own programs.
We provided an opportunity for children to have an immersive experience in the Museum’s approach to learning through our Opal School, a private preschool (ages 3–6) and public charter elementary school (grades K–5). Opal School served as a resource for teacher-research by supporting and provoking fresh thinking about learning environments that inspire playful inquiry, creativity, imagination, and the wonder of learning in children and adults.
Through our Museum Center for Learning, we made visible the ways children think, imagine, design, invent, and create when given intelligent materials, including the tools of the arts and sciences. We shared our experiences through professional development workshops, educational materials, and our annual Summer Symposium.
A year in review
Annual Report 2018-19
Audit Report 2019–20