Submitted by Kaleidoscope.
Kaleidoscope, a non-profit preschool and child care center on Orcas Island, recently purchased 7.4 acres of forested land to secure expanded access and permanent space for early childhood outdoor education programming.
In 2019, Kaleidoscope’s Forest School became Washington State’s first fully licensed, full-time offsite outdoor preschool program. Since the onset of the pandemic, the already popular Forest School program has been in even higher demand.
“After such a challenging year for our community, one bright light has been our ability to provide continued accessible and safe outdoor education to more than 42 preschoolers. We are so grateful to be in a position to ensure continuity of our programs with this purchase and to expand these opportunities to even more island kids,” shared Executive Director Amber Paulsen.
Kaleidoscope also offers more traditional infant and toddler programs in its building in Eastsound, as well as a hybrid preschool model combining traditional preschool with outdoor education experiences. It currently serves approximately 70 Orcas Island families, 50% of which receive Working Connection, Early Childhood Education Initiative, or ECEAP funding assistance.
“Accessible early childhood education is paramount to a healthy workforce,” said Board President Madden Surbaugh. “Our outdoor education program’s flexibility and safety during the pandemic has provided working families with the childcare they need as well as the education and life experience every child deserves. At a time of such uncertainty, we are seeing our students gaining invaluable confidence and resiliency through their outdoor experiences. Ensuring the longevity of this program while expanding its access is one of the top priorities of the board.”
Plans are underway to construct a driveway and parking area on the new land along with primitive, temporary structures for hosting Forest School programs beginning in early 2022. The land purchase was made possible by utilizing a combination of the organization’s reserves, grant funding, and a private lender.
The Board of Directors is assembling a committee to develop a long-term vision and strategy for the property, including a fundraising campaign to fully realize the potential for creating sustainable and accessible nature immersive experiences for young children on the island for generations to come.