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 2011-12 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 2018-19 school year brings 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 “Philosophy” and “Mission” of The Little School has remained the same during the past 20+ years! The 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.) A high quality comprehensive curriculum is offered that covers domains of language/literacy, math, science, socio-emotional skills, and cognitive development. In addition, The Little School continues to provide a Catholic environment of learning for young children, not yet in Kindergarten. Families are engaged in their child's early learning and development, thereby reinforcing their own faith. Religion Curriculum includes: Daily visits to Jesus in the Little Church; Catholic prayers and customs; celebration of holy days and special feast days; and awareness of God’s goodness (creation, family, and Church); parental education in the Faith through workshops, and activities with their children. The Little School understands the importance of friendship and support among young Catholic families.
The Ascension Early Childhood Center (The Little School) is sponsored by the Ascension Catholic Church. The Little School serves 2, 3, 4 and 5 year old children and their families. The school recognizes each individual child as a special, unique gift of God. It acknowledges that every child grows and develops in his or her own time and own way, and the foundation for lifelong learning is formulated in early childhood.
“The Little School” is dedicated in assisting each child develop a positive self-concept by integrating Catholic-Christian virtues into all individual and group activities. The staff supports and nurtures the gift of Faith begun in the home (the domestic church). Daily visits to the Little Church allow each child an opportunity to experience the love of God and the world around him or her through this Faith orientation.
Research proves that the young child constructs his or her knowledge through hands-on, experienced-based, activities which promote very significant intellectual capabilities. Through a loving, safe environment, each child at “The Little School” is provided with age-related, developmentally appropriate practical experiences. This Experienced-Based Approach to education assists in the development of emotions and enhances the child's social skills as well as cognitive skills needed for math, science, and language. The Little School offers a high quality comprehensive curriculum that covers the domains of language/literacy, math, science, socio-emotional skills, and cognitive development. Each child is given the opportunity to discover, invent, brainstorm, collaborate, experiment, and be challenged so that each may grow and learn to his or her fullest potential. Through these daily experiences the child can develop the skills needed in life now and in the future.
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
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.
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