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Modesto Children’s Museum Seen As Beacon For Learning
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Members of the Board of Directors for the Modesto Children’s Museum were happy to dig in for the recent groundbreaking ceremony. Oakdale residents Jake and Katie Barber remain the driving force behind the museum project. Photo Contributed

Seven years ago, Oakdale High School Class of 2005 alum Jake Barber and his wife, Katie Barber, had an idea to build and open an interactive children’s museum in Modesto. The idea took a step closer to reality earlier this fall when they broke ground to begin construction of the facility.

The idea first came to the couple after their first daughter, Brooke, was born. They wanted something they could take their child to that was not only fun but also safe and educational.

“We travel a lot and have been to many children’s museums around the world and we wanted to bring something similar back to Stanislaus County,” Jake explained.

Three years ago, the couple created a nonprofit organization called the Modesto Children’s Museum to begin brainstorming and fundraising any and all ideas that came from not only themselves but also from the community.

As plans progressed, they also joined with a national association of children’s museums they brought together and hired groups of people to go out and interview politicians, teachers, and local leaders to get an idea of what they would like to see brought to the community.

They then ran with the idea of the children’s museum and reached out to the community, seeking input on what the museum should offer. Some 25,000 responses later, with suggestions for exhibit ideas and possible locations, a spot in downtown Modesto caught their eye.

The location for the museum is at 928 11th St., in Modesto, replacing the old Fat Cat Music House.

The old music house is on its way to becoming a 12,000-square foot, two-story building with over 11 different exhibits including a light lab, two story climbing structure, a water lab, an air lab, a section for performances such as puppet shows, and a section upstairs dedicated to birthday parties and field trips.

The local couple said they wanted a way to honor and respect children and give them a way to be inspired to open their mind up to new ways of fun.

“We want every child from every background … to be able to experience the museum,” Barber expressed.

The prices are still in the works for admission, but Barber explained how they will be offering grants and raising funds continuously to make sure every child has an opportunity to experience the wonders of releasing their inner child. The museum will also be a non-profit, with payback coming primarily in the way of smiles and the joy of those children who get the chance to visit.

With the help of sponsors and donations, over $8 million has been raised within the past two years, but the museum still needs about $950,000 in order to open its doors. The project is still on track within the building process and has hopes to open its doors during the summer of 2023.

“Opening this means having a beautiful place where everyone from different backgrounds can come play, learn, and tap back into the fun of playing with other children,” Barber stated. “During COVID, kids couldn’t go to school and be around other kids, they sort of lost touch with that face to face interaction.”

Jake and his wife Katie are both the founding board members while Katie sits as the president of the nonprofit organization, and Jake as the chair of development and fundraising.

The community has been behind the couple every step of the way giving ongoing support.

With a good amount of funding still needed to complete the project, they are asking any businesses or community members that are interested in helping to check out their website at where sponsorship and donation packages are available. You can also send an email to: for answers to any questions. Donations can be mailed to Modesto Children’s Museum, 1509 K St., #119 Modesto CA 95354.

“I am from Oakdale and I want people from all over Stanislaus County to come and enjoy the museum,” Barber stated. “Go Mustangs!”

As of Monday Oct. 31, they also were able to announce a special donation incentive; the Boyett Family Foundation has offered to match donations to the museum, dollar for dollar, up to a total of $125,000 as the final push is underway to secure the financing needed to open the doors.

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Jake and Katie Barber of Oakdale are working to bring the dream of a Children’s Museum to reality. Photo Contributed