By Sheryl Oswalt
As a shepherd cares for a flock, Diane Rice cares for her little ones at Little Lambs Learning Center in Schoolcraft. Licensed for 27 children, this four-star rated facility is owned and operated by the Schoolcraft United Methodist Church. Rice has been the director of Little Lambs for the last four years and worked in child care for many years in Arizona before moving to Michigan.
Little Lambs was born out of the need to provide a Christian environment for those needing child care in the Schoolcraft area. The United Methodist church stepped up about 10 years ago and purchased a vacated doctor’s office at 110 E Clay Street directly behind the church. Once renovated, the center opened with a small staff including Peggy Manrose. Manrose remembers that Sheryl Stephens was doing daycare out of her home at the time and was asked to come aboard as their first director. The purpose was not only to serve the needs of those in the church but as an outreach to the entire community. Today Little Lambs Learning Center provides care for children ages two weeks to 12 years. It is open year round, Monday through Friday, from 6:30 a.m. -6 p.m. and closed on major holidays.
The facility strives to provide first-rate preschool and child care solutions to the families of Schoolcraft and the surrounding areas. To this end, it has chosen to participate voluntarily in Michigan’s Great Start to Quality rating and improvement system. State standards for the program were designed by parents, professionals and national experts. Consideration for rating includes staff qualification, family and community partnerships, administration and management, environment and curriculum and instruction.
Participation in this program allows staff access to Michigan’s Quality Resource Center where staff members can receive coaching and consultation for developing quality programs, financial assistance for improvements, information on professional development and lending of teaching materials such as books, CDs and puzzles.
While the facility is currently running at capacity, it often has summer openings when some of the children are home with their parents. As children advance, it also has openings in the fall for the pre-school. Rice said the most challenging part of her job was providing a high quality program at an affordable price. The center is always thankful for donations of slightly used office paper for drawing, cutting and pasting, dress-up clothes, kitchen utensils and cell phones for play.
The job provides intangible rewards: Rice said she loves knowing that she can be a valuable resource to the families as they work through the everyday challenges of being parents. Whether giving advice or support to the parent with the baby that isn’t sleeping through the night or just helping parents deal with the daily demands of working and raising a family, Rice is proud of the extended family environment that Little Lambs provides to those that entrust them with their most valuable gifts, their children.
Like most of us, the children are looking forward to nicer weather so they can play outside on the great variety of outdoor play equipment. They enjoy walks to the Library to participate in summer programs, go to the park and visit the Schoolcraft Fire Station. Oliver Gibbs, one of the students, said his favorite thing about Little Lambs was being able to bring his toy, Mr. Freckles, with him. Taylor Stump said her favorite part was playing with the toys. Avery likes playing with her blanket while the other children are napping, and all of the kids agreed that Miss Diane was the best. For more information on Little Lambs Learning Center, call (269) 679-2508 or find the center at http://www.littlelambslearningcenter.com.
The children at Little Lambs enjoyed a visit from Scott Oswalt of Oswalt Family Farms of Vicksburg and his live lamb.