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Sonshine Learning Center provides Christian-based child care

New Richmond is now home to a second Christian-based daycare facility.

Sonshine Learning Center, owned by Kris Dodge and Haley Hennlich, opened in August at Faith Community Church, 1040 Paperjack Drive.

Although the facility is housed in the church building and is Christian-based, it is not affiliated with Faith Community Church, Hennlich said.

Hennlich, a former teacher at St. Mary's School in New Richmond, said it's been her dream to operate a facility like this.

Hennlich and Dodge are active members of Faith Community Church and thought there was a better way the church could be using the space that now houses the day care.

"I had written a proposal of doing a (day care) program here," Hennlich said. "I just really thought there was a way to use (the space) more efficiently during the week."

Previously the church hosted Sunday school in the space.

Hennlich said her original proposal was forwarded to Dodge, who acts as the church's director of children's ministry, and the day care center was born from there.

Now acting as the day care center's director of Christian education, Dodge is responsible for "bringing the Bible to life" for the kids.

Along with teaching the Bible lessons in the classroom, the center hosts a weekly large group. During the large group time, students are told a story from the Bible and hands-on activities are performed to help the students understand the teachings, Dodge said.

"We want to show them that the Bible is not an old book. It's alive and relevant for us today," she said.

For example, the students recently learned about the Battle of Jericho. According to the narrative, the walls of Jericho fell after Joshua's Israelite army marched around the city blowing their trumpets.

During the large group lesson, the students set up blocks in the hallways to represent their "walls of Jericho." They paraded through the halls pretending to blow their trumpets and later, prayed that the walls would fall. When they emerged from the large classroom, the walls were down (a result of the teachers).

"Exercises like this help bring the Bible to life," Dodge said. "It really brings it to their level."

Dodge said that as the director of Christian education, it's not always easy to adapt the Bible teachings for kids 2 years old to fifth.

The Christian focus isn't the only thing that makes the facility unique, Hennlich said.

Although it's considered a day care center, Sonshine Learning Center hopes to have a family day care feel, she said. That means each class will house just a few kids - making it easier for those kids to form a bond between each other and their teacher.

"We're both small town New Richmond girls," Hennlich said. "We want this to have a small town feel."

The center uses the CSEFEL Pyramid - which focuses on the social, emotional development and school readiness of young children birth to age 5 - and the continuous care model, which is similar to the looping done in area schools.

"There's really, really good research about that," Hennlich said of the continuous care. "They've seen good results in terms of attachment, brain development and social/emotional growth."

The kids will also participate in SMART rooms.

SMART (Stimulating Maturity through Accelerated Readiness Training) is a program Hennlich implemented at St. Mary's School when she was a teacher there.

Students participate in all sorts of physical activities that use movement and simple exercises to overcome learning challenges. The idea is that each movement creates a pathway to the brain and stimulates learning.

The school opened in mid-August and currently has about 40 students enrolled, Hennlich said. The facility is licensed for up to 50 kids but could hold up to 120, if needed.

For more information on Sonshine Learning Center or to enroll, call 715-246-3764 or visit

Jackie Grumish
Jackie Grumish has been a reporter with the New Richmond News since 2008. She holds degrees in journalism and fine art from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Ill. Before coming to New Richmond, Jackie worked as the city government reporter at a daily newspaper in Aberdeen, S.D. 
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