Children’s center to open in former Grey House Cafe space

Multicultural Children Center will immerse children in Spanish

By Mike De Felice

Special to Kitsap Daily News

PORT ORCHARD – The distinctive building on Bethel Avenue sporting a turret and formerly housing the Grey House Cafe will soon become the Multicultural Children Center.

“We will be the only multicultural center in Kitsap County,” said Ruth Carlson, director of the new center.

The bilingual preschool, set to open this fall, will cater to children 32 months old to age 5 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 enrollees that integrate the GLAD (guided language acquisition design) teaching strategy, Carlson said.

A portion of each child’s day will involve cultural learning. For one hour, children will be totally immersed in the Spanish language, in which they will play games, learn cultural songs and dances, and be taught colors, numbers and days of the week and months.

“Instructors will speak Spanish with no translation,” Carlson explained.

“Children’s brains are amazing. The younger someone is, the easier it is for them to learn another language. The brain absorbs faster without asking if a word is a verb or an adjective,” she said.

A child learning a second language provides many benefits, the educator said.

Learning another language improves a child’s cognitive function, enhances problem-solving skills, improves verbal abilities and expands creative thinking, the director said. Being multilingual as an adult can open 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 on the building’s 3,400-square-foot first floor. The second floor will be available to rent for events such as weddings, family reunions and group meetings.

The multicultural children center is expected to hold an open house in early October with the school opening in mid-October.

The unique building that houses the school has an interesting history. Years ago, it was purchased by New York Times best bestseller author and Port Orchard resident Debbie Macomber. The structure housed the Victorian Tea Room, which was featured in the author’s “Cedar Cove” book series. In 2016, Macomber updated the building and reopened it as the Grey House Café.