OWL has found a nesting spot for the winter.
Starting this weekend, parents and caregivers can come in out of the cold and watch their children learn through play at a new Main Street location hosted by Oneonta World of Learning. Open five days a week through April, the site will offer a space for the volunteer-based organization to meet the demand of local families for winter activities suitable for children.
“Our family recently moved here from Spokane, Wash., and I was looking for a place to bring our young children during the day,” said Liz Brown. “During First Night Oneonta, I walked by this space and realized what was going on.”
Brown returned later to 277 Main St. and signed up as an OWL volunteer. Her 2½-year-old daughter, Keira Brown, comes along when she works at the new site.
OWL serves as a league of volunteers, parents, educators and caregivers committed to engaging children in play, exploration and interaction. It began five years ago with three parents, who each chipped in $10 and started hosting learning activities for all children.
“We borrowed spaces to host monthly events at,” said Rachel Rissberger, one of the founding members. “The community responded positively and OWL’s outreach has spanned throughout Otsego County and into Delaware County.”
Spaces will continue to be borrowed for large events, Rissberger said. “But, the OWL space here in Oneonta will allow for more activities,” she added.
Years ago, Caitlyn Davey began volunteering. “Our boys, Corbin and Hunter, love the activities and enjoy meeting other kids their age,” said Davey, who eventually became an OWL Board member.
“Having tangible walls for OWL has been a goal for years,” said Davey. “So, the board developed a plan to make it a reality. With the help and donations of others, it’s happening.”
Working with what funds they have, OWL Board members scouted the area to discover a real estate owner willing to sign a short-term lease and offer reduced rent.
“Tom and Karen Oliver, owners of 277 Main St., decided to work with OWL,” Davey said. “They’ve been very helpful through the whole process.”
Saturday is opening day for the Winter Play Space, but volunteers began preparing the space a few months ago. The walls were painted bright colors and the space was filled with a mix of books, stepping stones, tracks and trains, magnets, building blocks and a giant loom. “The community is very generous,” Davey said. “Mary Peterson and Orion Beadling made the loom, which is a wonderful teaching tool.”
In the back is an infant area, surrounded by leather couches. There is also a gross motor area, a balance beam, and a craft area.
Future contributions to OWL will determine if the space can be rented after April.