By Mike De Felice
Special to Kitsap Daily News
PORT ORCHARD – The distinctive turreted Bethel Avenue building that once housed the Gray House Cafe will soon become the Children’s Multicultural Center.
“We will be the only multicultural center in Kitsap County,” said Ruth Carlson, director of the new center.
The bilingual preschool, which opens this fall, will welcome children aged 32 months to 5 years old who will participate in academic enrichment sessions, Carlson said. STEM projects will focus on science, technology, engineering, and math. There will also be hands-on activities for registrants that incorporate the GLAD (Guided Language Acquisition Design) teaching strategy, Carlson said.
Part of each child’s day will involve cultural learning. For an hour, children will be totally immersed in the Spanish language, in which they will play games, learn cultural songs and dances, and learn colors, numbers and the days of the week and months.
“The instructors will speak Spanish without translation,” explained Carlson.
“Children’s brains are amazing. The younger a person, the easier it is to learn another language. The brain absorbs faster without asking if a word is a verb or an adjective, ”she said.
A child who learns a second language offers many benefits, said the educator.
Learning another language improves a child’s cognitive function, improves problem-solving skills, improves verbal skills and develops creative thinking, the director said. Being multilingual as an adult can open up employment opportunities, she added.
Carlson said her educational experience includes being a board-certified educator for 20 years and working for three years in the South Kitsap School District as an elementary and high school teacher.
The children’s center will be located on the ground floor of the 3,400 square foot building. The second floor will be available for rent for events such as weddings, family reunions and group reunions.
The multicultural children’s center is expected to hold an open house in early October and the school opening in mid-October.
The unique building that houses the school has an interesting history. Years ago it was bought by Debbie Macomber, New York Times bestselling author and Port Orchard resident. The structure housed the Victorian tearoom, which featured in the author’s “Cedar Cove” book series. In 2016, Macomber modernized the building and reopened it as Gray House Café.