- Sponsorship -

Play, laugh, learn

Early education event attracts a crowd

Kent ISD — “Plop” was the sound the boat made as it hit the water, tossed from the hands of a giggling, dancing Ma’Zyiah Ware.

The 4-year-old immediately reached for the next boat in line along the cement border of the Great Lakes Garden, taking a moment to study it before raising it above her head and dropping it into the water with another “plop.” Her mother, Marquita Ware, laughed along.

“I love bringing her to events like this,” Ware said. “It helps to build social skills and more experiences in seeing things, interacting with other children and developing motor skills.”

The event was the annual Laugh and Learn, hosted by the Kent ISD early education programs: Bright Beginnings, Early On Michigan, Great Start Readiness Program and Great Start to Quality. The program was able to be expanded thanks to the support of Kent County taxpayers and the Ready by Five Early Childhood millage, overseen by First Steps Kent

This year’s event was one of the largest, said Bright Beginnings Coordinator/Supervisor Karen Lezan. Held at the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in May, more than 1,500 people attended on the warm spring day.

“It is a wonderful opportunity to be able to provide a free family event and have so many ways for parents and kids to play together and enjoy the beautiful Frederik Meijer Gardens,” Lezan said. “We are so thrilled to be able to offer this event every year.”

Puppeteer Kevin Kammeraard, who is part of the KDL engagement team, watches as a child gives Moby a hug

Attendees checked in outside of the Garden’s amphitheater. Inside there were community resource tables featuring such groups as Easter Seals, the Kent County Department of Health, Michigan Alliance for Families, Family Futures and many more. 

From the community resource tables, participants moved along to the amphitheater, where drums were at the ready for those, like 4-year-old Maddie Grace Pierzchala, who wanted to tap along to the music.

“This is really cool,” said Maddie Grace’s mom, Jen-Marie Pierzchala, who said Maddie Grace is part of the Early On program. “It gives you an opportunity to talk to people about the resources that are available.”

From the amphitheater, activities spilled throughout the Gardens: puppeteer Kevin Kammeraad, part of the Kent District Library’s engagement team, shared stories and songs while showcasing the KDL Bookmobile behind the amphitheater; storytime was in the Lena Meijer Children’s Garden; art activities, face painting and food were in the Garden’s main building; and family yoga and music therapy took place at the DeVos Van Andel Plaza. 

Taking advantage of all of it was Bonnie Henderson and her son Amari.

“I hope things like this will help him socialize with other children,” said Henderson, who said Amari was recommended to the Early On program by her son’s doctor; through that the family discovered the Bright Beginnings playgroups, which they also attend. “I think the music will be the best part; he loves to dance.”

“It really is a lot of fun,” said Christopher Martinez, who watched his 2-year-old son Zander play in the Great Lake Garden. “It is something to do and a place to explore and we probably picked the most popular spot.”

One of the more popular spots at the Laugh and Learn was the music area, where participants banged on drums while music played over speakers

Explore more unique video stories of students learning, interesting school programs and educators working to help all children succeed.

- Sponsorship -
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma is a reporter covering Kent ISD, Godwin Heights, Kelloggsville, Forest Hills and Comstock Park. The salutatorian for the Hartland Public Schools class of 1985, she changed her colors from blue and maize to green and white by attending Michigan State University, where she majored in journalism. Joanne moved to the Grand Rapids area in 1989, where she started her journalism career at the Advance Newspapers. She later became the editor for On-the-Town magazine, a local arts and entertainment publication. Her eldest daughter is a nurse, working in Holland, and her youngest attends Oakland University. Both are graduates from Byron Center High School. She is a volunteer for the Van Singel Fine Arts Advisory Board and the Kent District Library. In her free time, Joanne enjoys spending time with her family, checking out local theater and keeping up with all the exchange students they have hosted through the years. Read Joanne's full bio


Related Articles

- Sponsorship -

Issues in Education

Making Headlines

- Sponsorship -


Maranda Where You Live WGVU