Dordt College News

Dordt College spearheads new preschool, combining two private-run Sioux Center schools

April 12, 2012

The Learning Ship, Bullfrogs & Butterflies, and the Dordt College Education Department have combined forces to create Stepping Stones Preschool. This collaboration promises to be a venture that will benefit preschool students, Dordt’s education students, and the Sioux Center community.

“This program will strengthen the early childhood education currently offered in Sioux Center. And, we know that robust early childhood learning experiences provide a stronger entry into our K-12 school systems,” said Dr. Tim Van Soelen, Dordt College professor of education.

The benefit to Dordt students will also be significant. It will allow education students to spend 100 or more hours with young children in classrooms prior to their student teaching semester.

An advisory council has been established to provide guidance and support to the new preschool. The Stepping Stones Preschool Council consists of Kari Schmalbeck, Beth Bleeker, Kathleen VanTol, Gwen Marra, Van Soelen, and Director Christy Hulstein. Hulstein has been the owner and operator of Bullfrogs & Butterflies, a preschool teacher at The Learning Ship, and a classroom teacher at Sioux Center Christian School.

“We are excited to see what great things God has planned for the students of Stepping Stones and the entire community of Sioux Center,” said Hulstein. “What a great opportunity for the community to come together and bless little ones with a faith-based preschool experience.”

The enrollment preferences of those who had originally registered with Bullfrogs & Butterflies and The Learning Ship have been reserved. Stepping Stones Preschool will also offer additional class options, including a Monday through Friday pre-kindergarten option for 4- and 5-year-olds, three-days per week options for 4- and 5-year-olds, and two-days per week options for 3- through 5-year-olds.

Stepping Stones is in the process of hiring additional teachers and para professionals and hopes to be fully staffed by the end of the April.

“Stepping Stones Preschool will continue to provide what have been the hallmarks of these two private preschools—a high-quality faith-based program in a  loving environment,” said Van Soelen. “Dordt will provide additional financial assistance, operational assistance, and the qualified hands of our upper level education majors. We know that Stepping Stones will be a great choice for parents, and we’ll continue the tradition of excellence that The Learning Ship and Bullfrogs & Butterflies have begun.”

Northwest Early Childhood Iowa (NECI) scholarships are available to qualified families. To learn more, to enroll your child, or to ask questions, please contact Hulstein at

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