Barrington Park District opens ‘fairy-tale’ learning facility
KEEP teacher Pat Theis gets a hug from Barrington three-year-old Ethan Lucas as his brother Aidan, 5, looks on at the Park District's Sept. 20 grand opening of its new KEEP facility. | Joe Cyganowski~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 28, 2012 6:37AM
BARRINGTON — Barrington Park District’s Kids Enrichment Experience Program hosted a special open house last week to allow the program’s children a first look at their new learning and activity space.
The facility’s theme is: “Kindergarten KEEP — where enrichment and enchantment meet.”
The district, which calls the program KEEP, officially moved the popular offering from the Community Church of Barrington to the newly renovated building at 235 Lions Drive in Langendorf Park on Monday. District officials explained that the new space will provide the program’s kindergartners with even more opportunities to participate in the before and after school activities.
“That’s one of the reasons we’re really thrilled about the program being at the park district, because now our children can participate in things that their friends do at the park after school,” said KEEP supervisor Mary Sieja before listing the wide range of possibilities including dance, tae kwon do, Epic Cheer, and more.
Parents can sign their children up for any of the Park District’s programs that run during their KEEP hours, which would be from 6:45 a.m. to 9 a.m. for the before school program; from 3:35 p.m. to 6 p.m. for the after school group; and 11:35 p.m. to 6 p.m. for the kindergarten students.
The Park District program currently offers its care to about 33 kindergartners in District 220’s six elementary schools.
Many of the same games, toys and interactive learning tools that the program supplied the students with at the church have been moved to the facility’s main room. A kitchen and eating area is connected to the room, where the children can enjoy their snacks. On the other side of the main room is the cubby hole area for the children to store their backpacks and coats.
Jennie Johnson, the Park District’s marketing coordinator, attended the open house Sept. 20 to watch the students get acclimated to the new environment that she helped set up.
“We created a storybook fairy-tale for the room,” Johnson said of the cubby hole area, which follows a short story line.
Johnson explained that the story begins on the first wall with a mother reading a book to her daughter. On the next wall, the daughter’s thought bubble referencing the book’s cheerful flying dragon is seen coming to life; and on the third wall, a wizard is waving his wand to put the dragon back into the book.
The new facility’s pastel green and yellow walls, as well as the layout, were designed to help the program’s young children feel welcomed and at home while away from their parents.
Max Paese, one of the KEEP students, tagged along with his mother, Alice, to take a look at the new facility that he’d spend time at next week.
“I like the reading section because there are lots of books,” sad Paese as he looked through the book selection.
Ann Marie Choukas came to see the facility and enjoyed cake and lemonade with her son, Vince, who attends the after school program. Vince’s twin brother Ryan also is enrolled in the program, but wasn’t able to attend the open house.
“They love this program,” Choukas said. “They’ve been in it now for about three weeks now and have made a lot of new friends. It keeps them busy and active.”