Kaleidoscope, a non-profit preschool and childcare center on Orcas, was recently awarded a $700,000 grant by the Washington State Department of Commerce Early Learning Facilities grant program. The grant will bring critical financial resources into our community and support Kaleidoscope in funding the expansion and continuation of nature-based early childhood education on Orcas on land purchased in 2021. The grant process was competitive with over 143 applicants; 69 facilities were awarded a total of $43.2 million across the state.
Now named “The Kaleidoscope Forest” the organization purchased the 7.4 acres of forested land at the corner of Orcas and Sunderland Roads last year to secure expanded access and permanent space for early childhood outdoor education programming which has previously occurred on leased or borrowed land. Eventually, Kaleidoscope intends to host three Outdoor Nature Based programs of 18 children each, plus additional after-school programming at the new location. All will comply with Department of Children, Youth and Families ONB standards and meet licensing requirements. The first phase of the project, which is now underway, includes construction of a driveway and parking, secure fencing along the property, and primitive, rustic structures for storage, composting toilets, and classroom programming. The next phase will involve bringing in utilities and construction of a building.
In 2019, Kaleidoscope’s Forest School became the first fully licensed, full-time offsite outdoor preschool program in the United States. Since the onset of the pandemic, the already popular Forest School program has been in even higher demand. Kaleidoscope also offers more traditional infant and toddler programs in its building in Eastsound, as well as a blended preschool model combining traditional preschool with outdoor education experiences. Kaleidoscope currently serves approximately 70 Orcas Island families, many of which receive Working Connection Child Care, Early Childhood Education Initiative or Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program funding assistance.