About OWl

Oneonta World of Learning is a museum dedicated to learning through play, located in upstate New York. 

Who we are:

A coalition of volunteer parents, artists, educators and other local professionals dedicated to building our community.

What we envision:

An interactive and engaging environment for play and exploration. Potential exhibits are endless, and will incorporate hands-on, minds-on activities and interactive play.

Why we are here:

We believe that play is important to children's intellectual, emotional and social well being and that children learn best in the company of their parents and primary caregivers.

Where else?

Oneonta is centrally located among the communities of Otsego, Delaware and Chenango counties, and the resources to develop world-class, hands-on exhibits as well as phenomenal outreach programs are all right here, among the educators, artists, and professionals of our community.

Board of Trustees 2023

We are always looking for qualified candidates to join our board. Interested persons should contact Aaron Sorensen at Sorensen_Aaron@yahoo.com. Please put Interested in OWL Board in the subject line. 


Roger Chauveron, President 

Caitlyn Davey, Treasurer

Samantha Harvey , Vice President

Ann Fradkin Hayslip

Rachel K. Rissberger, Immediate Past President

How Owl Was Hatched

The discussion regarding the creation of a children's museum in Oneonta began in 2006. 

Organizers, initially operating under the name of the Children's Museum at Oneonta and collaborated with the SUNY Oneonta education department. The organizational team conducted focus group research with the assistance of the SUNY Oneonta social anthropology department; initiated feasibility and economic studies with the assistance of the Hartwick College economics department; and participated in a small business class presented by the Executive Service Corps. Through this groundwork planning, the name of the organization changed to Oneonta Hands On or OHO. After discussions with community stakeholders, the organization changed its name to Oneonta World of Learning (OWL) and commissioned a local artist to develop a logo. 

The inaugural Paintfest, attended by more than 400 participants, featured instructional workshops in various media, open-ended opportunities to paint in fun and unexpected ways. The event also featured The Magic Paintbrush Project, which is specifically geared toward children with disabilities and their families. 

owl's early years

In September 2008, a city-sponsored event raised public awareness and garnered nearly 2300 signatures in support of OWL's mission. The Internal Revenue Service assigned OWL an EIN number (26-3604210) on Oct. 27, 2008.  Starting in 2008, OWL has hosted many public events and partnered with numerous organizations and businesses. 

In November 2008, OWL hosted its first major event, Paintfest, with support from The Arc Otsego and Upper Catskill Community Council of the Arts. Since that event OWL has initiated many local community events such as The Ice Cream Social, March Musical Madness, Science Saturday (ending in 2015), Dig Dirt Day (Bi-annual event) and Paintfest. 

In May of 2009, the New York State Board of Regents issued a provisional charter to The Oneonta World of Learning (OWL). In the following year, the Cooperstown Graduate Program for Museum studies made recommendations in regards to organizational structure and marketing. Our current logo was developed at this time.  

During these early years, we borrowed spaces for meetings and programs. Through our donated time and fee for programs, we were able to rent a storage unit, allowing us to move our materials to a single location.  In January of 2012, we were able to rent office space on Ford Avenue from UCCCA (now known as CANO). 

the owl's Nest

When the provisional charter was nearing the end of its fifth year, OWL was given the opportunity to rent a space on Main Street to explore the possibility of transitioning from a “museum without walls” to a bricks-and-mortar museum and we opened the OWL’s Nest at 277 Main St. in Oneonta in January of 2014. 

At this point, the Board determined that it was most appropriate to apply for an extension of the provisional charter, and the extension was granted in May of 2014.  The transition to a bricks-and-mortar museum was a success and we outgrew the OWL Nest.  

In April of 2016 OWL closed its doors on Main Street and signed a 30-year contract with the town of Oneonta for the use of the Fortin House in Fortin Park. We closed for more than a year to renovate the former farmhouse. Although renovations continue, the OWL playhouse opened its doors in June 2017, celebrating with a Grant Opening on Sept. 16, 2017.

Owl Today

Since our grand re-opening, OWL has been providing opportunities for learning through play for children and their grown-ups through open play sessions and special event programming.  We partnered twice with WSKG and PBS Kids to offer themed events with Bob the Builder and Pinkalicious & Peterrific.  

OWL hosted a variety of parent-child crafting workshops teaching skills such as knitting, dishware painting, and steampunk decorating techniques.  We hosted a Robotics Badge Day for Girl Scouts ages 5-12 teaching the basics of circuitry and programming with each participant creating and building her own one-function robot. OWL implemented a weekly Parent-Child Playgroup for families of children with special needs to foster development and provide support to parents and caregivers. 

OWL provides space to Early Head Start on a monthly basis for their family socials and is a meeting space for a Girl Scout Troop. OWL partners with the Audubon Society to offer a day camp for children ages 5-8. In addition, OWL has provided outreach programs for Bugbee Children’s Center, the YMCA’s Jumpstart Preschool, and has presented at several conferences regarding the importance of play in child development. 

All of OWL's programming is made possible through the support of volunteers and donors. To learn more about how you can support OWL's mission to enhance the lives of children through play-based learning, visit the Support page