By Marlis K. Sandwith
When I was living on San Juan Island, and my oldest son was still a small one, I had a little case of Orcas Island Envy. The source of my envy? Orcas had the Funhouse. At that time I knew the Funhouse to be an island-size version of a children’s museum, or even a science center. It was also a place where teens could gather on weekend nights, and they reportedly had an awesome sound/recording studio, plus a very established and successful mentoring program…all created and built by the community.
When I finally moved to Orcas Island, I had a second child, and a third on the way. Our first experiences at the Funhouse were through the Music Together classes offered by Mary Wachter. After my third was born, we continued classes, and my new baby girl would lie on a blanket in the middle of the circle, while the little ones and their grownups danced and sang and played music around her. My oldest son participated in running club for a season, a few teen nights here and there, and we’ve enjoyed visiting just to play a while on numerous occasions.
Over the years, the Funhouse has changed, morphed and adapted to the community’s needs, and continues to do so even today. In 2001, their board and staff determined that they should expand their role in the community by opening up their facility, their resources and their programs to everyone. The name was formally changed to the Funhouse Commons, which is the short name for The Children’s Discovery Foundation of Orcas Island, Washington.
This past year, my family has used Funhouse Commons quite a lot. My middle son, Finn, is 7 years old. He is a very passionate and unique individual. He is smart and funny and witty, and has a near encyclopedic knowledge of a large number of animal species. However, his biggest challenge lies in the social realm. Luckily, he has had great teachers and staff at the public school the past few years to help him work through this challenge and gain new skills.
What’s more, several months ago he began attending Funhouse Commons after school for a Pokemon club hosted there by a high schooler. After a while, Finn begged to go there a few afternoons per week, as they offer a highly used after school program. My schedule didn’t require him to be in the program, but since he was so excited about it, we tried it out, and I’m so glad we did. I cannot tell you how impressed I am with the staff there this year. They show me time and again that they take their jobs as seriously as any teacher, and they make every effort to truly know my son, and to give him new social skills while he is in their care. Funhouse Commons is not just a childcare program for Finn; it is an extension of school, an enrichment program, and in many ways it functions a lot like the closely-knit neighborhood in which I grew up playing. For all of this, I am so grateful.
Another claim to fame of Funhouse Commons is the Annual Funhouse Science Fair, in which Finn participated this year, and it was truly inspiring to see over 100 island kids from Orcas and neighboring islands participate, plus many exhibits from community members.
I could go on and on about my appreciation for this magical place and all the many programs they offer and ways in which they contribute to our sweet community, but instead I will leave you with some photos of the Funhouse that might invite you to stop by and visit next time you’re on Orcas Island. Enjoy!
P.S. COMING UP ON JULY 4TH: THE ANNUAL EAT AND RUN 5K RUN! You can run, walk, and there is even a 1K run/walk for kids! I’ll be there helping, so please REGISTER HERE and stop by to say hello! This is a great way for the whole family to have fun while supporting such an important part of our community.
Entryway & coatroom lets you know you are in a fun place!
Funhouse Commons is currently undergoing an interior makeover to brighten up their huge space. This means cool pops of color in different alcoves and learning spaces.
The Climbing Wall with cool sculptures above. Art is everywhere at the Funhouse Commons!
The Art Yurt!
My daughter Ada, dragging big brother Finn away from Funhouse Commons after his first day of Summer day camp. You can see he is not going willingly!
Raising kids on Orcas Island is pretty wonderful. If you want to know more about what it’s really like, I specialize in working with families. My other career was in education (you can read more about my background HERE), so I’m happy to talk schools as well.
~Marlis, Broker/Associate TWilliams Realty