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As we begin to emerge from the global pandemic that has isolated us for months, it feels like the perfect time for a new way to connect with our children and our community. And that time has come with State of Play, a curated play space for zero to 6-year-olds opening in Bozeman’s Cannery District this winter. State of Play is just what the name implies, a place where all play – wildly imaginative play, quiet contemplative play, messy art play, large motor climbing play – is welcome and encouraged. But it’s also more than the sum of all that – it is an environment where you can engage and connect with your child; a place where your kiddo can develop lifelong skills while nurturing curiosity and innovation. State of Play is the brainchild of Katie Dolen and Kama Werner, two local moms with diverse and complementary backgrounds, who were introduced by mutual friends knowing they could create something magical together. Katie lives and breathes progressive early childhood education. You feel it as her face lights up while she shares her vision. According to Katie, “Children’s ideas and theories about the world and how things work are far more impactful than our own agendas. My favorite part about working with young children is listening to and following those ideas using materials as part of the language.” Katie’s expertise and knowledge were honed through years of experience working with some remarkably creative and artistic minds. She taught at Blue School, a Reggioinspired school formed by the founding members of The Blue Man Group looking to nurture creativity, innovation and community for their children. Her journey then led her to another progressive school in L.A. before she moved Bozeman four

years ago to start a family with her partner. “I was looking for an educational community that had as much magic and power as the ones I had been part of. As I wondered where I fit in, I met Kama and witnessed how she really saw her children and validated their experiences. I knew we were like-minded, and our desire to create a space to connect with children took shape.” Katie’s background also includes art therapy, so she taught remote art lessons for Kama’s children during lockdown. Kama listened to their conversations and was wowed. “To believe in Katie is an understatement,” said Kama. “Her ability to really see and understand children is so important, and that’s what State of Play will do; it’s what she does.” Kama brings a wealth of marketing and business skills to State of Play, but perhaps more importantly, she also brings her experience as a contributing community member raising two children in Bozeman. She has worked for the Bozeman Schools Foundation, served on the board of THRIVE and managed community races. Kama has a pulse on the Bozeman community and enjoys all the city has to offer, but, as she explains, “I always felt like there was something missing – and once I met Katie, I knew this is what I was looking for. Now this project is my passion!” Kama’s connections with the Bozeman community helped develop State of Play’s Equitable Access Program, a scholarship fund to provide families with donated open play sessions. State of Play is dedicated to being an inclusive environment. “We believe that ALL people deserve access to high-quality creative experiences,” she said. “This is a part of our overall commitment to diversity, equity and inclusivity. We really want to invite everyone who has interest.” Through the Equitable Access Programs, Kama explains, “local organizations can pair families with donated play times funded through corporate and personal sponsorships.”

Inclusivity is paramount at State of Play. Katie emphasizes, “We want this to be a beautiful umbrella of all things early childhood. We have a huge commitment to building a community that is inspirational within these walls, yet filters outward. We want to attract magic makers, alternative thinkers and curious people to offer vignette classes interspersed during the play periods like yoga, puppetry and music.” Two-hour play periods (either reserved or dropin) include opportunities for art explorations, climbing on a whimsical structure or playing with frequently changing, open-ended materials. Thoughtful design of the space is central to State of Play. “Four main areas – wet, loud, quiet and dry – meet each child where they are comfortable,” Katie explains. “The space is also adaptable so we can push all the furniture aside, turn on a projector and transform it into an underwater area to explore what that feels like. We want to elevate our space with a heartbeat that benefits the child in a social and emotional way. That is our foundational piece.” With weekend hours and coworking space, State of Play hopes to meet families where they are. Play periods can be a time to have fun and connect with your child or there is an option to check your child in with a staff educator, grab some free coffee and settle into the workspace. “At State of Play, we acknowledge what we have in common,” Kama says. “Parenting can be messy and challenging and we want this space to be a place where you can admit that and be yourself in a supportive community. There is a real emphasis on connection and returning to childhood. State of Play is about curiosity, joy and wonder and putting it back into our lives.” After the last year, we could all use some more of that! Find out more and help State of Play open its doors this winter by joining its Crowdfunding campaign through June 30 and at www. stateofplay.co. Julie Kleine lives, loves and writes in Bozeman with her husband and three children. You can find her at the library, on the trails or in the garden. Reach her at jkleine200@yahoo.com.

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SUMmer 2021


Profile for Montana Parent

2021 Summer Family Fun in Southwest Montana and Yellowstone  

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