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Oakland Museum Of California To Open OMCA Kids: Nature Playspace In June 2022

Oakland, CA, March 24, 2022—This June, Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) will open a new, interactive natural sciences gallery space designed for children ages two to five, their families and caregivers. OMCA Kids: Nature Playspace is a 1800 square-foot indoor area featuring a variety of hands-on activities for young visitors to learn about nature in Oakland. From nature-themed puzzles and building materials to exhibits featuring animals that make their homes in Oakland’s backyards, streams, and hills, Nature Playspace will give families a fun, safe place to play and build community with other families. Press images available here.

Nature Playspace is the result of a multi-year research and planning process undertaken with community partners. The development focused on creating playful learning experiences to inspire children and their caregivers, foster observation and questions and making connections with others.  In addition to the space itself, the Museum has developed a family activity guide to help kids and families extend their experience throughout the OMCA galleries and campus.

OMCA Kids: Nature Playspace will open to the public Saturday, June 4, and is located in the Gallery of Natural Sciences. Family-friendly amenities that support the new Playspace experience include adjacent stroller parking and restrooms, a nursing area, limited designated family parking spaces in the Museum garage close to the entrance and signage in English, Spanish and Chinese. OMCA Kids: Nature Playspace is supported by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. OMCA Kids: Nature Playspace is included in general OMCA admission. For more information, visit .

“We are excited to add OMCA Kids: Nature Playspace to the Museum’s range of family-oriented offerings, welcoming two- to five-year-old visitors and their adult companions,” says Lori Fogarty, OMCA Director and CEO. “The new exhibits and activities combine play, observation, imagination, storytelling and inquiry ——all basic skills of science, art, and history. We can’t wait for our youngest visitors to learn and play together and connect to the wonder of the natural world.”

OMCA Kids: Nature Playspace has been created by a team of educators, natural scientists, exhibition designers, and OMCA staff in collaboration with community partners including BANANAS, Lotus Bloom, and Abundant Beginnings.

OMCA Kids: Nature Playspace Features

Entry Space
Families will be introduced to the unique visual vocabulary of the exhibition: playful illustrations of the natural world depicting what families might find if they explored Oakland’s hills, streams, and backyards. These illustrations will create an immersive atmosphere where children can encounter and look for different plants and animals  as they make their way through the exhibition.

The hallway that leads into the heart of the exhibition space will have a variety of activities that help children make observations and connections. A light table interactive will allow visitors to examine different natural objects. Looking at objects under light will help visitors observe features that might go otherwise unnoticed. The opposite wall offers a shadow play experience where families can use a variety of shadow puppets and their own bodies to create stories with shadows.

Oakland Hills
This area provides some space and experiences for physical play, focusing on the goals of observation and making connections. Children can crawl through a hollow log while noticing what may live on or inside it. Children can also climb a small hill to discover what’s on top and observe their surroundings from a new vantage point. A variety of simple animal costumes will inspire imaginative play, where children can make connections between the environment and the needs of animals. Additionally, a small tent invites role playing and thinking about the various ways humans can interact with nature. The Oakland Hills includes a simple interactive that allows children to explore the world of an underground ant nest, learning about this animal home and how ants live.

Nature at Home
Kids and their families can explore the idea of biodiversity and nature in and around human homes. There are opportunities to learn about how people feed themselves with plants grown in window boxes or backyard gardens. The house offers an opportunity for pretend play, while also promoting skills like sorting, categorizing, and comparing through the process of family groups making pretend meals after harvesting fruits and vegetables from the pretend garden. This area will also have a large open table that can be used for a variety of experiences and exploration of materials with loose parts, including puzzles, blocks, games, etc.

Oakland Streams
Families will discover plants and animals (including humans) that make their homes in and around streams. A booster step will bring the smallest visitors face to face with live fish in the fish tank, allowing children to better see differences and similarities between fish and notice their varied behaviors. Nearby, touchable models will let visitors use their fingers to compare the size, shape, and texture of different fish. A model table with streams, an estuary, and human developments will enable visitors to play together. Kids and their families can use figurines to create imaginary habitats and ecosystems, and to make up stories about how different plants, animals, and habitats may be connected.

A big, walk-through metal culvert provides a fun location to hop across “stepping stones” along the length of the tunnel floor. A cozy reading nook allows children and adults to read nature-themed books together, building vocabulary and literacy skills.

This area will also include amenities for our youngest visitors who may come to the Museum as part of the family unit. An enclosed area for infants and children who are not yet walking will let them explore shapes, colors, and textures in a safe space. Additionally, there will be a semi-private nursing area for families to use to nurse their children.

The Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) tells the many stories that comprise California, creating the space and context for greater connection, trust, and understanding between people. Through its inclusive exhibitions, public programs, educational initiatives, and cultural events, OMCA brings Californians together and inspires greater understanding about what our state’s art, history, and natural surroundings teach us about ourselves and each other. With more than 1.9 million objects, OMCA brings together its multidisciplinary collections of art, history, and natural science with first-person accounts and often untold narratives of California, all within its 110,000 square feet of gallery space and seven-acre campus. The Museum is a leading cultural institution of the Bay Area and a resource for the research and understanding of California’s dynamic cultural and environmental heritage for visitors from the region, the state, and around the world.

The Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) is at 1000 Oak Street, at 10th Street, in Oakland. Museum admission is $16 general; $11 seniors and students with valid ID, $7 youth ages 13 to 17, and free for Members and children 12 and under. There is a $5 charge in addition to general admission pricing for special exhibitions in the Great Hall. OMCA offers onsite underground parking and is conveniently located one block from the Lake Merritt BART station, on the corner of 10th Street and Oak Street. An accessibility ramp is located at the 1000 Oak Street main entrance to the Museum.