Investigating conditions where creativity, curiosity, and the wonder of learning thrive

Beyond the exhibit floor, Portland Children’s Museum includes Opal School and the Museum Center for Learning.

Opal School of Portland Children’s Museum is a tuition-funded preschool (for children ages 3-5) and public charter elementary school (grades K-5). The mission of Opal School is to strengthen public education by provoking fresh ideas concerning environments where creativity, imagination and the wonder of learning thrive.

Opal School is grounded in the belief that children are capable, competent, curious and collaborative - and that environments rich in relationships between people, materials, questions and ideas support children’s natural learning strategies.  We believe that all children have the right to participate fully in creating and shaping their own lives and to contribute fully to the quality of life around them. Opal School’s teacher-researchers collaborate to develop approaches that foster the habits of heart and mind foundational to learning.  We investigate conditions which catalyze inquiry-based learning through the tools of the arts and sciences.  Together, we practice listening, observing, inquiring, staying attentive, and reflecting with children and families.

Portland Children’s Museum Center for Learning builds from Opal School and Portland Children’s Museum’s exhibits to make visible the ways children think, imagine, design, invent, and create when conditions support inquiry using the tools of the arts and sciences. The Center is about research—the art of paying attention, capturing what we notice, and interpreting children’s learning approaches for everyone who has an investment in schooling our young. The Center documents the work of Opal School and spearheads professional development designed to support the application of these approaches by educators, coordinators, and administrators beyond Opal School’s walls. Educators from around the world have deepened their approaches to teaching and learning through collaborating with the Museum Center for Learning through attending our workshops, using our publications, and bringing study groups to Opal School or Opal School to their sites.

Read our latest posts, and join our online community to engage with Opal School teacher researchers and colleagues around the world who are dedicated to creating fresh ideas that strengthen educational experiences for all children and teachers at


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We’ve created several books, videos, and modules to enhance the capacity of teachers and parents to support children.