STEM Play in The Inventor’s Yard

STEM Play in The Inventor’s Yard

We are excited to announce that funding goals for Phase 1 of The Inventor’s Yard have been met according to our timeline for breaking ground in 2020.  These efforts are possible due to the generous financial support provided by our members, patrons, business sponsors, and foundation grants.  Your excitement for this project is a great reminder of our ultimate goal—providing transformative learning opportunities for your children.  With ground-breaking in sight, we continue our ongoing fundraising efforts for Phase 2 of the build.

Of the many facets included in the build, sand and water play will be a highlight of Phase 2.  Children will have the opportunity to engage in sensory motor activities through water pumps and channels, and new sand dig elements and structures.  We’re taking our current Mammoth Dig to the next level as we seek to create an experience that combines current learning trends with timeless play activities.

“We are excited that The Inventor’s Yard will contain additional elements such as sand and water play,” comments Dr. David Swiderski on behalf of Mid-Valley Oral, Maxillofacial & Implant Surgery, a Catalyst Sponsor for the build.  “We feel that early learning concepts in physics and natural sciences can benefit children in countless ways.”

Though simplistic on the surface, sand and water play provides a valuable learning platform to facilitate experiences in “problem posing and problem solving” (i.e. volume experiments), texture and sound, and mathematical thinking, according to the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (Wallace et al, 20101).  Such an environment also allows children “a means to release tension in a nonthreatening environment,” while additionally increasing social skills as they negotiate use of materials and play alongside other children, (Wallace et al, 2010).

This portion of the outdoor playground is an invitation for children to roll up their sleeves and get a little dirty in the process.  There will be readily available adjacent storage for visitors’ shoes and coats, for those looking to play outside during all Oregon seasons.

According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children, water activities such as these introduce children to “early physics concepts like motion and flowing water,” (Vanover, 20182).  While open play at the Museum is not guided by an instructor, caregivers can encourage development of such concepts through observing behavior, asking stimulating questions, and highlighting discoveries one’s child has made.  When caretakers stay engaged in the play process, it can be a valuable experience for everyone.

Each element of the new build has a purpose in mind, designed not only to encourage outdoor play and entertainment, but also through the lens of science and mathematics as building blocks for early learning.  Each phase has been carefully drafted by Gilbert House Children’s Museum with Learning Landscapes, a leading playground design firm that specializes in natural playscapes.

“Our work is rooted in the understanding that wellbeing is deeply tied to engaging in self-directed, creative endeavor in a safe environment,” the firm shares.  “We observe a flow state in play that many adults only dream of achieving.  You can literally see growth in high level executive functioning (self-regulation, problem solving, cognitive flexibility).  We are building brain synopsis and mental capacity.”

We are grateful for all of the experts, supporters, and volunteers who are involved in this process from beginning to end.  A groundbreaking date is soon to be announced.


1 Wallace, A. H., White, M. J., & Stone, R. (2010). Early childhood corner: Sand and water table play. Teaching Children Mathematics, 16(7).

2 Vanover, S. (2018, July, 18). The importance of sand and water play [Blog post]. Retrieved from