Preschool Makeover at Sacred Heart Schools Chicago Is Rooted in Fun and Learning

Preschool renovations at Sacred Heart Schools Chicago focus on fun, learning and social-emotional growth. Preschool director Maureen Rutkowski explains.

Sacred Heart Schools Chicago has an exciting addition: a preschool makeover! Designed with a focus on fun, purposeful play and social-emotional growth, the preschool has moved from its current satellite campus to Sacred Heart’s main campus, offering more connection and convenience.

“Our preschool renovations are set to greatly enhance the learning experience for our young learners,” says Maureen Rutkowski, preschool director.

Purposeful play

One highlight of the renovations is a special outdoor classroom. “We are thrilled about our new outdoor classroom designed specifically for early childhood,” Rutkowski says. 

This nature-themed wonderland features everything from loose parts play and a mud kitchen to an art easel, playhouse, sandbox and a raised planting bed where kids can garden and care for plants.

Inside, the focus on purposeful play continues to shine. Kids dive into dramatic play activities like running a pizza shop, grocery store, baby hospital or play kitchen. These playful scenarios are more than just fun — they’re learning goldmines. 

“Children learn to collaborate and solve problems together,” says Rutkowski. Through play, kids boost their communication skills, expand their vocabulary and start to grasp early writing concepts.

These activities also introduce kids to number sense and one-to-one correspondence as they role-play transactions. While fun and engaging for preschoolers, this type of play also introduces important learning concepts.

“Children explore economic systems and human interdependence, gaining a broader understanding of the world around them while also learning how to be good citizens,” Rutkowski says.

Growing hearts and minds

“Our daily routines and activities are designed to foster social-emotional learning that will benefit children as they continue to learn and grow through school,” says Rutkowski. 

For example, teachers model empathy and cooperation, showing kids how to interact positively with others. They also support kids during social interactions, offering guidance and encouragement. 

Young boy at Sacred Heart Schools Chicago Preschool
Photo Credit: Sacred Heart Schools Chicago

Morning and closing meetings give children a chance to check in on their emotions, promoting self-awareness. These check-ins can be as simple as thumbs up/thumbs down or circling their feelings on a chart, Rutkowski says.

“Most importantly, we believe that students constantly learn through play. Children develop social skills, such as identifying emotions, problem-solving, sharing ideas and expressing feelings,” Rutkowski says. Feelings charts help kids identify and name their emotions, while strategies like deep breathing and taking breaks teach young learners how to manage their emotions.

Smooth sailing to junior kindergarten

Transitioning from Pre-Kindergarten (PK) to Junior Kindergarten (JK) can be a big step, but Sacred Heart makes it a smooth one. Throughout the year, teachers gradually reduce their support to build student confidence, increasing student responsibilities and expectations as they go. 

PK and JK classes interact regularly, helping students get comfortable with all the preschool teachers. “This makes the transition smoother for our students,” Rutkowski explains.

A warm and welcoming school culture

Sacred Heart prides itself on creating a welcoming environment where every child feels valued. Teachers take time to get to know each child including their family’s traditions, languages spoken at home and other personal details.

The cornerstone of Sacred Heart Schools is their Five Goals: Love God, Love to Learn, Help Those Who Need Me, Be a Friend to All and Make Wise Choices. These goals are woven into daily life at Sacred Heart, says Rutkowski. 

While setting educational foundations is critical, Rutkowski emphasizes the importance of Sacred Heart’s nurturing preschool environment: “Our goal is that every child comes to school certain that they are known and loved.” 

To learn more, visit shschicago.org.

Jennifer Kales
Jennifer Kales
Content editor Jennifer Kales has been in the business of writing for more than 20 years creating advertising copy, blogs, books and everything in between. She loves helping Chicago Parent clients tell their stories in a way that resonates with audiences.

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