The Little Lions’ Learning Center made history on March 18 by breaking ground on their new facility. The building will be the permanent home of The Little Lions’ Learning Center, a non-profit childcare and education center owned and operated by the Big Stone City School. Big Stone City mayor, Deb Wiik, was in attendance at the groundbreaking ceremony.
The new center has been a dream of the staff, families, and school since it opened three years ago in the St. Charles Parish Hall. Director Anne Lester says, “It was a great start for the Little Lions’ program, but our lease will end in May, and the new building is essential to continuing the program for our little lions.” Currently, there are 32 cubs ages six weeks to five years old. The learning center also employs six full-time staff.
The new 3,100 square foot facility will be built just north of the Big Stone School and construction is expected to take six to eight weeks. According to Lester, the weather delayed the initial groundwork, but contractors plan to begin the week of March 29.
The one-level building will feature an open floor plan with designated learning areas for each age group, but will also allow for multi-age learning and activities. A sleeping room for the infants will provide a quiet area during naptime, and other spaces include a full kitchen, two bathrooms, and an office for the director to remain onsite full time. One design innovation particularly appropriate for the center’s Midwestern setting is the flooring. Lester says, “We spend 90 percent of our days on the floor playing with the children and our new in-floor heating system will be a wonderful addition.”
She says, “Our playground will be right next to the Big Stone City School playground and siblings will be able to see each other when their recess falls at the same time.” Because of the center’s close proximity to the school, the little lions will be able to utilize the gym when the weather is inclement. They will receive meals made by the Big Stone City School’s cook.
The center will also collaborate with the Big Stone City School’s preschool program to align teaching and themes each year. “All the children who attend BSCS preschool are transported to and from the learning center and their curriculum is enriched by music, art, outdoor play, science, and hands-on learning. Lester says, “The transition from the learning center to preschool is seamless.”
She says, “We are beyond excited to see everything coming together. The ability to provide services at the learning center affects so many children, parents, families, and businesses.” Over the last three years, the learning center has helped 17 foster children with childcare, and currently forty percent of the children in the learning center are low-income families.
The center offers opportunities for the children to grow and develop. Lester says, “The thing that makes the learning center a quality childcare program is the daycare teachers. They are caring, understanding, patient, and love making a difference in kids’ lives. The learning center offers children an early start to excellent education during the most crucial years of child development.” The center has also helped alleviate the lack of childcare in the area, which had been a problem for many families.
“We hope to make this a great place for our children to attend for many generations to come,” Lester says. “We are so appreciative of all of the support we have received. With permission, we would like to recognize our donors either on the sign on the outside of our building or on the banner that will hang inside the building.”
If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation, drop it off or mail it to the Big Stone City School or Minnwest Bank in Big Stone City. Need more information? Call Christopher Folk or Anne Lester at the Big Stone City School.
Photo: Chris Folk, Sue Christensen, Hillary Henrich, Dorla Jacobson, Kristin Roe, Hether Voeltz, Anne Lester, Deb Wiik, Stacy Hennings, Ruth Trautner and Arlo Anderson