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The Play Lab News

“Children...need most of the same things adults need--consideration, respect for their work, the knowledge that they and the things they do are taken seriously.”
― Caroline Pratt, I Learn from Children


The Play Lab Wins Whole Child School Award!

"The ASCD Whole Child Award is an award designed to recognize schools that go above
and beyond to educate the whole child. We at ILASCD have created an award at the state level
to recognize schools that have developed a vision to encourage the growth of the whole child.
The whole child award recognizes these schools for not only educating the whole child but for
having had success in creating students who are knowledgeable, emotionally and physically
healthy, engaged in an inclusive learning environment, and are prepared to become lifelong
learners. This award recognizes those schools that have changed the focus from one of a narrow
academic vision to one that promotes the development of the whole child; healthy, safe, engaged,
supported, and challenged. " Illinois ASCD

The Play Lab is an Illinois Recognized Whole Child School.


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The Play Lab Founder Melinda Martinez-Epperson acknowledged by The Albany Park Chamber of Commerce for Women History Month. #HerStory


Today's #herstory and Chamber member shoutout goes to Melinda Martinez, owner of The Play Lab, for becoming a member of the Albany Park Chamber of Commerce and helping support our small business community!

The Play Lab was founded by the Master teacher Melinda Martinez-Epperson. They are a small progressive home Preschool & Kindergarten with goals of her first Brick and Mortar here in Albany Park.

She was sure of working with children and families, and she wanted to give back to her community. She has worked with children her entire life and done community work and organized FREE community events giving back to others because she knows how it feels to be the recipient. She believes the educational system is not equitable, nor is it set up to properly support “all” children and families.

Her difficult early childhood experiences, a broken education system, and her passion for children and families brought her to start The Play Lab. They serve children ages 3-6 and believe in small class sizes and a mixed-age classroom, so every child is supported, engaged, and challenged. They learn through play, hands-on experiences, monthly integrated topic studies, and project-based learning. They also teach service and charity, acceptance and tolerance, entrepreneurship and financial literacy, social justice, and support teaching the truth and embracing differences. Mindfulness, fun fitness and games, the Growth Mindset, and positive affirmations are part of the curriculum. All of this is implemented in a developmentally appropriate, fun, and engaging way for children.

She is also happy and proud to share that her program was one of five schools in Illinois to receive a Whole Child School Award from the Illinois ASCD! Her school was the only winner in Chicago and the only program self-governed with zero outside funding. She knows she has a heart-centered program that is thoughtful of all children, and she is working diligently, so the program can grow and support a lot more children!

She is happy to have joined the Albany Park Chamber of Commerce and looks forward to continuing to support our local businesses! Happy Women’s History Month to all the women honored in the Chamber and to all the women who made it so we can represent here today!

IG: @theplaylabchicago FB: The Play Lab

During #WomensHistoryMonth, we will celebrate female entrepreneurs in our community by sharing #herstory.

#shoplocal #dinelocal #spendlocal #localservices #womensupportingwomen #globalrootslocalheart 

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Founder of The Play Lab Awarded
Illinois Early Childhood Educator Policy Fellow
for 2023/2024 by Teach Plus!

The Play Lab students and alumni make kits for Chicago Homeless!

                                                               Go Play Lab!🫶🏽 🥳 📣

The Play Lab students collected recyclable materials to help supply their Exploration Room and support other student leaders and local not-for-profit organizations:  1.)Collecting aluminum, toilet paper and paper towel tubes, and plastic caps for University of Illinois in Urbana's youth program to provide "Cena Y Ciencias"or "Dinner & Science" to families who would not likely have engaging educational experiences, 2.) support The Play Lab Alumni Addison Martinez collect Pop Tabs for Ronald McDonald Charities, 3.) collecting Plastic Bags for Albany Park Food Pantry, and 4.) collecting for The Play Lab Recycling Center to teach the children how to recycle, reduce, and reuse.

The Play Lab students and alumni collect items for Chicago migrant families seeking asylum! 

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Congratulations to the founder of The Play Lab Melinda Martinez-Epperson M.Ed. for her dedication to making a difference in progressive early childhood education, advocacy, and policy!

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Congratulations to
our Founder of
The Play Lab on being selected for The 2024/2025 Teach Plus National Policy Advisory Board (NPAB)!


It was a fun evening for The Play Lab Preschool and Alumni donating rice and their favorite cereals to the Albany Park Food Pantry!
#GoPlayLab #LittleLeaders


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The Play Lab at Illinois Early Childhood Advocacy Day 2024 at the Capitol unites with Early Childhood Leaders speaking with Illinois Senators and Representatives to support legislation for Early Childhood Programs and Funding!


The Play Lab drops off Art Supply Donations for Welles Park Art Classes.

While visiting the park one day, we saw Mr. Bill's Wish List. We decided we wanted to help. We discussed how service and charity take many forms. Chicago Park District provides enrichment classes at an affordable rate to families in the community.
We wanted to support that, and we did!

Thank you, Chicago Park Districts, for all you do! The Play Lab thinks "YOU ROCK"!


Congratulations to our Founder, Melinda Martinez-Epperson M.Ed, on winning the 2024/2025 Maria Whelan Leadership Institute Early Childhood Emerging Leaders Fellowship!

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