The Student News Site of Clayton High School.

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The Student News Site of Clayton High School.

The Globe

The Student News Site of Clayton High School.

The Globe

CHS’ Youngest Learners

Caregivers and young students learn and play together in the Family Center’s Stay, Play, and Learn program.
Soyon Park
A toddler plays in the outdoor water table. The new space allows lots of opportunity for children to explore, especially when the weather is nice.

The sound of giggles, conversation and the occasional tumble fill the air. Finger paintings and craft projects are proudly displayed on the walls. Toddlers and caregivers are everywhere: playing, interacting and socializing. The Family Center’s Stay, Play and Learn program is in full swing. 

The program, now located in the former Blue and Orange classrooms on the Clayton High School campus, works with families with children from birth until entering kindergarten, with families able to attend up to three mornings a week. 

“We build a community of learners, not just children but children and their adults,” Cathy Glaser, Clayton Family Center Stay, Play and Learn teacher, said. 

We build a community of learners, not just children but children and their adults

— Cathy Glaser

Most kids in the program are between the ages of one and two, with some crawling and others toddling around the room and playing on the outdoor playground. 

“It could be a nanny, it could be a parent, we have some grandmas who are regulars. Alison’s grandma comes with her every week,” Glaser said. 

Adults and children can explore freely within various indoor and outdoor activities, including a ball pit, painting, a reading nook, a sandbox and a playground. The class is led by at least one dedicated Stay, Play and Learn educator, with other Family Center teachers coming in to teach Music and Nature. 

The program is a social time for young children, allowing them to meet each other and learn and play together in the safety and comfort of their trusted adults. 

“It’s nice to be able to get acclimated and start school in a way that’s not dropping off,” Carly Hildreth, former Clayton teacher and Stay, Play and Learn mother to Lincoln and Olive, both 20 months, said.

According to Hildreth, seeing and playing with the same other children multiple times a week has built her kid’s social skills, allowing her toddlers to develop friendships and learn to interact with other children. 

“It’s a nice opportunity for Nora to interact with other babies, as opposed to just her sisters,” Caitlin O’Connell, Stay, Play and Learn mom to Nora, 17 months, said.

O’Connell and her husband, Charles Isner, sent their elementary-aged daughters to full-day programs at the Family Center but opted to participate in Stay, Play and Learn with Nora. 

“It’s a good in-between,” Isner said. “[It provides] lots of time at home but also time out of the house socializing with other babies, playing with other toys.” 

The Stay, Play and Learn program has a long and storied history, much of it witnessed by Glaser, who began her involvement with the Family Center 37 years ago with her oldest son, then nine months old. The program was known as Babysitting Co-op and offered two mornings a week. Before this year,  the district offered it three mornings a week but added a Tuesday/Thursday session this fall to accommodate increased interest. Nearly 20  families attend the Monday, Wednesday and Friday sessions, and the Tuesday/Thursday session now boasts 14 families. The program costs $550 a year for resident families attending three days a week and $120 for the fall semester for residents attending twice a week. 

“The program is a good segue into the school district. Young parents get a taste of what is offered,” Patti Rosenkranz, retired Captain elementary kindergarten teacher and Stay, Play and Learn grandmother to Josie, 24 months, said. 

The program is a good segue into the school district. Young parents get a taste of what is offered

— Patti Rosenkranz

Parents can meet and socialize with one another, allowing them to connect and form a community. Glaser has seen families move to Clayton or enroll in full-day preschool at the Family Center due to positive experiences at Stay, Play and Learn. 

“It’s very inclusive; you don’t have to live in the district,” Glaser said. 

Stay, Play and Learn teacher and mom of two Clayton school district students, Soyon Park knows firsthand the impact that this program has on the lives of young parents and families. 

“I started as a parent with my 14-month-old baby. I love this program and [how it helps people] make friends. We have such a beautiful group of international families,” Park said. 

Languages currently spoken by Stay, Play and Learn families include Korean, Thai, Mandarin, Spanish, French and Russian. 

“You’ll see the word community written around the room because that’s what we’re doing, we’re building a community,” Glaser said. 

Stay, Play and Learn moved to the CHS campus to allow two of the Family Center’s full-day classes to be moved back to the Gay Avenue campus. The main reason for the move was declining enrollment in the CHS campus classes.

“A lot of families, working parents need full-day programming, or even if they’re in our morning programs and they need kids in before school care,” Family Center Director Amy Perry said. 

Perry also believes the move increased interest in the Stay, Play and Learn program. 

“A wonderful perk about being over there is that they have their own space; they are able to flow easily inside and outside,” Perry said. 

The outdoor space includes a private playground with a playhouse, sandbox, outdoor toys and a garden where students can participate in growing and harvesting watermelons and carrots. 

“The outdoor space is beautiful; it gives Nora a chance to explore nature,” Isner said. 

Stay, Play and Learn uses one of the old full-day Family Center classrooms, with the other dedicated to the high school’s Greyhound Alternative Program. 

Glaser sees this and the proximity to the high school students as a perk of the location, noting that the young students are fascinated by the high schoolers. 

“I am really enjoying being part of this high school community,” Glaser said, “we couldn’t be happier here.” 

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Alex Cohen, Editor-in-Chief
Alex Cohen is a senior and this is her fourth year on Globe. She joined Globe because her 8th-grade English teacher handed her a copy of the Globe and told her to try it out. This year she is looking forward to her last year of high school and spending time with friends. Her extracurriculars include swim team, water polo and best buddies club. She also loves baking, reading and spending time with her dog, Colby Jack. 
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