Ascension Early Childhood Center was founded as an apostolic endeavor in keeping with the directives of Vatican II and the current teachings of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict for the Catholic laity to live and share their faith. Research proves the years before a child reaches kindergarten are among the most critical in his or her life to influence learning. Therefore, The Little School sets the foundation for Catholic, educational and social development of the youngest members of Ascension and surrounding parishes (children ages 2, 3, 4 and 5.) The high quality comprehensive curriculum covers domains of language/literacy, math, science, socio-emotional skills, and cognitive development. Families are engaged in their child’s early learning and development, thereby reinforcing their own faith.
The Little School offers half and full day preschool programs. The comprehensive curriculum include:
Phonological awareness (letters and sounds)
Expressive, receptive and written language
Numbers and operations
Geometry and spatial sense
Physical and life sciences
Awareness of self and others
Physical development and coordination
Health and safety
Music and movement
Art and drama
FAITH – HOW THE LITTLE SCHOOL HELPS STUDENTS DEVELOP A HEART AND MIND FOR GOD
The Little School’s comprehensive Religion Curriculum follows the liturgical calendar of the Catholic Church. Little Schoolers visit Jesus daily in the Little Church. They experience Catholic prayers and customs, celebrate holy days and special feast days. They are made aware of God’s goodness (creation, family, and Church). A parent is a child’s first teacher so parents are invited to workshops, and activities with their children. The Little School understands the importance of friendship and support among young Catholic families.
ACADEMIC QUALITIES of THE LITTLE SCHOOL
The Little School’s experience-based curriculum includes goals of the program, daily schedule, availability/use of materials, transitions between activities, and way in which routine tasks of living are implemented. We understand young children learn through active manipulation of their environment and concrete experiences contribute to concept development. Providing a balance of teacher direction and students’ interests, Little Schoolers experience a variety of developmentally appropriate activities, and can pursue interests in the context of life, community and the world.
The Little School’s Developmental Art Program motivates and challenges students using an ever-changing variety of art media, enhancing specific areas of development.
The Little School’s Music and Movement Program develops phonological/listening awareness (distinguishing sounds in preparation for reading); listening comprehension (name and describe categories of sounds); fine and gross motor coordination (hand and percussion instruments.) Moving to music, playing an instrument, and keeping time with “body percussion” establishes one-to-one correspondence which is the basis for counting and understanding mathematics. Music demands simultaneous coordination of motor skills, cognitive skills, and social knowledge as well as fostering deep learning and long-term memory.
Little School History
The Ascension Early Childhood Center, established in 1995, is sponsored by the Ascension Catholic Church. The Ascension Early Childhood Center was given the nickname “The Little School” by its former pastor, Monsignor Pins, who said, “It is a ‘little’ school located next to the ‘little’ Church for the ‘little’ people of the parish”. The Little School serves 2, 3, 4 and 5 year old children and their families.
The building which was home to the Ascension Early Childhood Center from 1995-2018 was built in 1941. It was the original Ascension School Building started by the Sisters of the Most Precious Blood. This two room schoolhouse began with the first group of 42 students. In 1958, a larger school was built and students moved into the “Big School” across Santa Maria Drive. The building then became the convent for the Sisters of Loretto that lived on campus and who continued the education of the Ascension School students in the 1960’s.
Preschool education was becoming more and more popular in St. Louis, and all over the country. There were many preschools in the St. Louis County area, although not one Catholic preschool. The Sisters retired in 1994 and the building sat empty. It was during this time that Erica Argue approached Father Joseph Pins, pastor of Ascension Parish, with the idea of starting a Catholic preschool at Ascension Parish. Renovations began with Father Pins’ approval.
Co-Founders Erica Argue and Mary Ellen Schweitzer worked closely with the architects hired by Father Pins and Ascension Parish to transform the once “two-room schoolhouse”, then “convent”, into a “preschool”. Erica and Mary Ellen also spent the entire year visiting several preschools in the St. Louis area to gather construction and curriculum ideas to make the Ascension Early Childhood Center the best, and only, Catholic preschool in Chesterfield. They hired an excellent teaching staff, some still employed at The Little School today.
1995-96 was the first school year for the Ascension Early Childhood Center. The Sisters of Loretto, who still lived in St. Louis, returned to campus on October 6, 1995 for a ribbon-cutting ceremony on the front steps of the new Ascension preschool. That same day Father Pins was named Monsignor Pins.
The Little School’s program schedule has been continually modified to meet the needs of young families. The 2-3 year old classes were added for the 2003-2004 school year. This program has been especially popular since The Little School remains the only Catholic preschool in the area that offers a program for 2 year olds. The 4-5’s classes moved into the Ascension Elementary School building in time for the 2011-2012 school year. Research confirms the critical learning period for all children is the time from birth until they enter kindergarten so the need for preschool education continues to grow – as does The Little School. The 2018-2019 school year brought more changes as the 2-3’s and 3-4’s classes move into the newly remodeled “Early Childhood” wing of the Ascension Elementary School building, joining the 4-5’s classes. This move consolidates all educational programs into one building and builds camaraderie with our Big School “Buddies”.
The Ascension Early Childhood Center has received accreditation from The Missouri Association for Voluntary Accreditation of Childhood Education Programs. The Little School Director is a member of NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children), AEYC-MO and Rivers Bend AEYC and has served on Accreditation Teams for other schools.