Early Childhood Center

Early childhood education is a tradition at St. Catherine University. Founded in 1931 by Sister Ann Harvey, a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet, the Center originated as a lab school to educate women in teaching young children.

1946 University Archives Photograph Collection. A student is seated on the floor with three children while playing with blocks.

Today, the Early Childhood Center meets a vital need for quality care and education of the young children of St. Catherine University students, faculty, staff and members of the surrounding community. Many second-generation children find their way back to the Center.

The Early Childhood Center at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota has a Four Star Parent Aware rating, the highest possible rating. The ECC is also accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)

We offer full-time educational services for children ages 33 months to six years. Depending on the ages of the other children in the program, we are often able to accept children who are 29-32 months old if they can easily separate from their guardian and are potty-trained. 


We provide two authentic educational models: a Montessori Children's House and an Early Learning Program.

We offer small stable classroom groups that require a Monday through Friday full-time commitment. 

The St. Catherine University Montessori Children's House is based on the philosophy of Dr. Maria Montessori, using her method, materials and ideology that education should be an aid to life. Children develop independence through choice of purposeful work. The teacher gives individual presentations guided by the interests and development of the child, providing the dynamic link between the child and the carefully prepared environment.

Children make choices daily as to what they will do. They feel at home where they are able to follow an interest to completion without interruption, further developing concentration, calmness, and joy. This joy is embodied through your child's expressed desire to connect with others and to participate in community and caring for the environment with contentment and peace. Montessori's methods prepare the child for life, allowing the process of self-construction to flourish.

This three-year program includes Kindergarten; serving children ages 33 months* to 6 years of age. We ask that parents enroll their children with this three-year commitment in mind. The first two years aid the development of independence, concentration, competence and consciousness through purposeful activity and serve as a foundation for third year. The third (and sometimes fourth) year is the kindergarten year, when a very broad range of academic work is eagerly pursued by your child. Learning throughout the three years comes naturally and spontaneously with joy, confidence and ease. Upon completion of the kindergarten year, your child is ready for first grade and to continue with a love of learning about others, the world and themselves.

The Early Learning Program is an educational program for children 33 months* to 5 years of age. Children experience group learning joyfully. They make new discoveries through self-directed activities and small group explorations about themes that have been carefully developed by the teaching staff. The various learning centers of math, science, language, socialization and play are integrated into the theme work.

Sensitivity and respect characterize our approach for your child: respect for the whole child as a person, for individual differences and learning style, for each child's right for intellectual and social growth, and to have the support of concerned adult when needed.

As a staff, we work hard to be responsive to the needs and interests of each child. Throughout the program, emphasis is placed on fostering self-esteem, developing social awareness and a sense of community, encouraging independence, promoting language development, developing problem-solving skills, and providing challenging stimulation within a nurturing environment.

Our 11-week summer program is loosely based in the Montessori philosophy. The class utilizes the campus environment and spends a lot of time outdoors with special activities. It is open to both Montessori and Early Learning children.

The summer program is available for families enrolled in the previous academic program or those who are enrolled in the upcoming school year. Please call 651-690-6608 or email ecc@stkate.edu for information about our summer program.

Program Options

September 2023 - May 2024 OptionsTimeHours of OperationWeekly CostMonthly Tuition Payments
Montessori Children's House First Pick UpM - F, 6.75 hours/day7:45am - 2:30pm$288$1248
Montessori Children's House Second Pick UpM - F, 7.75 hours/day7:45am - 3:30pm$331$1434
Montessori Children's House Third Pick UpM - F, 8.5 hours/day7:45am - 4:15pm$374$1620
Early Learning Program First Pick UpM - F, 6.75 hours/day8:30am - 3:15pm$288$1248
Early Learning Program Second Pick UpM - F, 7.75 hours/day8:30am - 4:15pm$331$1434


Tuition for the school year is totaled and divided for a reoccurring monthly amount. Tuition for the summer is totaled and divided in half.

Our Staff

All of our teachers have university degrees and are CPR, AED, and First Aid certified. Lead teachers have specific education in early childhood areas, as well as years of experience teaching the age group. 

St. Catherine University students assist during transition times in the early mornings, lunch time, and late afternoons.


Our Schedule

2023–2024 Academic Calendar

Wednesday, August 30, 9am-12pmOpen House for All Families
Thursday, August 31, 9am-12pmPhase-In for All Children
Tuesday, September 5ECC Opens for All Children
Wednesday, September 13, 5-6:30pmParent/Guardian Back to School Night
Thursday - Friday, October 19 - 20Prof. Development Day (MEA)* - Center Closed
Tuesday, October 31, 9amCostumed Autumn Campus Walk
Thursday - Friday, November 23 - 24Thanksgiving - Center Closed
Monday, Dec. 11, 2:45-3:15pmWinter Sing Along
Wednesday, Dec. 20 - Monday, Jan. 1Winter Break - Center Closed
Monday, January 15Martin Luther King Jr. Day - Center Closed
Monday, February 19Professional Development Day - Center Closed
Thursday, March 28Professional Development Day - Center Closed
Friday, March 29 and Monday, April 1Good Friday and Easter Monday - Center Closed
Friday, April 26Professional Development Day - Center Closed
Friday, May 24Last Day of School - Early Dismissal/Family Gathering

About Us

Lab School

Our Center offers two distinct approaches to early childhood education and provides opportunities for St. Catherine University students from many academic departments to observe, do fieldwork, and research. Additionally, we have University student staff supporting both programs, providing work experience in a professional setting.

License and Accreditation

The Early Childhood Center is licensed by the State Department of Human Services and meets or exceeds its requirements. We are also accredited by National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) until February 1, 2029 when we will be up for renewal.

The ECC Montessori Children's House meet the requirements to be a Full Member School of the American Montessori Society and we renew our membership annually. 

We have a four star rating from Parent Aware, the state of Minnesota's Quality Rating System. It is good for two years, and renewal for us will be July 2024.

Logos for NAEYC accredited Early Learning Program, Verified School AMS Pathway, Parent Aware 4 star Highest Possible Rating

Diversity Statement

The Early Childhood Center honors, supports and celebrates the diversity of its children, families, and staff. Diversity is interpreted in the broadest sense and includes race, language, faith background, family structure, gender, sexual orientation and economic status.

Make a Payment

You can make your tuition payments online. You can use your credit card, check card, checking or savings account to make a payment anytime; 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We accept American Express, Discover, Mastercard or Visa, as well as Electronic Checks from your checking or savings account.