Kaleidoscope Play Group arrives at TES
April 12, 2023
TALENT – A curious girl in a long black ponytail and pink T-shirt opens a coaster-sized lock-and-key door to reveal a rabbit drawing and turns to the woman next to her. “Bunny,” she says.
Across the room a little boy sitting next to his mom fiddles with a red U magnet, attempting to suck up metal objects through a plastic barrier.
And at an adjacent table, a girl in blonde pigtails cries out for her “mama” as a toddler crawls onto the chair next to her.
“It’s OK,” says mom, “momma’s sharing her seat.”
Colorful, organized, but not overtly so, and somewhat melodious with the cacophony of tiny voices, the scene is exactly what Phoenix-Talent School District community care specialist Rosario Medina had hoped for when she first considered adding a Kaleidoscope Play & Learn Center at Talent Elementary. Referred to as Kaleidoscope Play Group for short, the program is held at Talent Elementary every Thursday from 10-11:30 a.m., and is open free of charge for children ages 0-5 and their parents or guardians to play. The concept couldn’t be simpler: they look around, play, read, talk, and when the time’s up every family leaves with a new book.
The opportunity to host a Kaleidoscope Play and Learn group was brought to Medina’s attention a few months ago when she was contacted by KPL facilitator Randy Wilson, a representative of the Southern Oregon Early Learning Hub. Wilson met PTS superintendent Brent Barry when the two were in the same professional development class years ago and reached out to him while trying to add a hub in the Kaleidoscope dead zone between Medford and Ashland. Barry loved the idea and connected Wilson with Medina.
It didn't take long for Medina to be sold on the concept, too.
“I thought it was a good fit for us, especially after covid,” she said, “because when Randy explained to me that it was about parents coming and giving them the space to interact with their kids. That is something we’re hearing a lot – during the pandemic, when everything was shut down, everybody was in survival mode. …So now it’s like how do we reconnect? So this gives families the opportunity to come – totally free – and just have a playgroup where they can reconnect with their kids, and then, also these parents can connect with each other before their kids come to kindergarten.”
The Kaleidoscope Play & Learn model was developed in Seattle using information gathered through five years of outcomes evaluation, as well as experience in the field. Each site follows Kaleidoscope Play & Learn guidelines that are based on that research, and on widely recognized and accepted theories and best practices in the fields of child development, early learning, parent education, community development, cultural competency and family friend and neighbor care.
Talent Elementary’s first KPG meeting was held on March 2 and included only four little girls, Wilson said. But it grew to 12 or 13 kids by Week 2.
“I’m overjoyed; I’m absolutely thrilled,” said Wilson, who is on hand to facilitate the meetings at TES. “It’s working out really well and as you can tell by looking at it the parents are a key part to this program. …The essence of the program is to have parents interact and connect with their children and I just kind of go around to facilitate what’s going on and provide the activities.”
Wilson added that Kaleidoscope Play and Learn serves a vital function for children and their families, especially in the wake of the pandemic.
“It’s that socialization that was missing for so many families during covid, not only for the kids but for the parents as well,” she said. “And they are (connecting). That’s why they all have name tags on today, so they can introduce themselves and exchange numbers hopefully and playdates, something outside.”
Medina figured the weekly gathering would, if nothing else, provide local families with a great space for a little playtime, free of charge. She’s been pleasantly surprised, however, at an unexpected development that’s proven to be a major perk of the program.
“One thing that I didn’t really anticipate,” Medina said, “is that …as a parent interacts with their kid, (Wilson) or other volunteers from Kaleidoscope will kind of push in in a very loving way and kind of do little things like, ‘Oh, what color is that crayon?’ or ‘What shape is that figure?’ So those things that don’t come naturally as a parent but it kind of gets kids prepared for when they come to kindergarten.
“And so then the parents start picking up on that language, too. Instead of just, ‘Oh, let’s color,’ it’s like, ‘Oh, do you want the pink one or the green one?’ You’re not explicitly teaching but you’re exposing them to the words and the material.”
The addition of TES gives Southern Oregon Early Learning Services 20 Kaleidoscope sites in all.
Whether or not SOELS eventually adds Kaleidoscope sites at Phoenix Elementary or Orchard Hill Elementary will likely depend on space. Vacant rooms can be hard to come by, but Medina said its success at TES is a great sign, should the possibility of adding Kaleidoscope Play & Learn Centers at other PTS sites arise.
“It’s just all about connection,” she said. “Everything is about connecting parents to the school, students to the school with each other, because that is the best foundation for educational progress once they do get into school.”
For more information, please contact community care specialist Rosario Medina at email@example.com.