Where a kid can be a kid: South Whidbey Children’s Center celebrates individualism, summer plans

For over 34 years the South Whidbey Children’s Center has provided the South End with progressive learning for each child’s natural curiosities.

Joshua Furlong enjoys the ride on a two-seat tricycle while classmate Mason Guzman pedals.

For over 34 years the South Whidbey Children’s Center has provided the South End with progressive learning for each child’s natural curiosities.

The center praises individualism and focuses on the needs of each child by using curriculum-based early learning.

For parent Kristen Nelson, that was just what she needed when she first sought a childcare center for her oldest son, who is now 7.

“Everyone said the children’s center was the best place — bar none,” she recalled.

Eventually, the center drew her in as well. Nelson said it was the center’s commitment that led her to join the center’s board just a few years later.

“They’ve become like family. They’re supportive — not only supportive to someone like me, but to the community across the board, of all walks of life and income levels.”

The program provides full or half days, and before and after-school care for children ranging in age from 12 months to 12 years. It focuses on the high/scope curriculum, which uses learning through active participation, and is also licensed by the state Department of Early Learning. Celeste Erickson / The Record | Dante DeMartini swings a play shovel around the sand/dirt outside of South Whidbey Children’s Center in Langley. Behind him, Jennifer Thompson moves some dirt to show the students how the tool works while Silas Hunsaker inspects a toy backhoe.

For Nelson, that was an important factor. As a stay-at-home mom, she said the children’s center was a place of refuge for her while her son attended two days a week. Her son has since graduated, and her daughter now attends the center following in his footsteps. Nelson said she always sees the joy in her children’s faces when they come home from their day there.

“I know he’s safe and happy,” she said. “That’s a really good feeling as a parent.”

For Director Kris Barker, that is the type of environment she hopes to craft. She has held the position for three years and has already witnessed growth in the program.

Barker came with a teaching background of more than 20 years in the Los Angeles school system. She moved to South Whidbey in 2004 and initially joined the board to be part of the community.

Since she began, the program needed more space and brought in new many new teachers.

“With new staff members there are new ideas, and we have a lot of new staff members,” she said.

Many of the teachers have a master’s or bachelor’s degree education, she said. That along with a low four-to-one student-teacher ratio makes the center unique.

The center is looking forward to the summer months and hosting camps for ages 5 to 12 for either part-time or full days.

Kids can look forward to arts and crafts, beach walks and even volunteering at the Good Cheer Community Garden.

Barker has also worked to fuel the community growth by including meetings for parents and building relationships with them, a similar idea she has for the children at the center.

“It’s important to have that same experience for families,” she said.


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