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Our History

The Little School was founded in 1959 by Dr. Eleanor Siegl. She was determined to create a school that embodied the convictions she had developed through her own life experience and studies. The result was The Little School – a progressive education school where each student would be treated as an individual, at the center of their own learning. Integral components of the school’s educational environment would include the active involvement of students in the learning process, development of multi-cultural awareness and respect for others. Her goal was to move children from behind their desks, unfold their hands, open their minds and allow them to learn in their own ways and in their own time.

In the early years, The Little School was a preschool at the University Unitarian Church in Seattle. The program expanded in 1964 to include elementary grades, and as the size of the student body grew, it became apparent that the school would soon outgrow its space. A generous gift in 1968 provided a 10-acre site in Bellevue for the school’s new home. The Meadows and Woods classroom buildings were constructed, but the Big Field and six acres of woods were preserved to provide an outdoor classroom to encourage imaginative play and the first-hand exploration of nature. The creation of the Eleanor Siegl Library Learning Center and the Roush Family Library, and the acquisition of the Northup Schoolhouse and additional land served to preserve our natural environment and strengthen our programs.

Throughout The Little School’s history, our size and location may have changed, but what has not changed is the dedication to our progressive education ideals. Peter Berner-Hays, our current head of school, is committed to building on the good work of Founder Eleanor Siegl, long-time Head of School Paul Brahce, and the many other dedicated heads of school, faculty and staff members, trustees, families and students, both past and present, who have constructively collaborated to create The Little School. New studies tout the benefits of forest kindergarten, and the latest educational trends are aimed at helping students develop 21st century skills through project-based learning and forgoing traditional tests for authentic assessment. Yet, each of these components have been part of The Little School's approach for over 57 years. At The Little School we don't bow to trends or jump on the new ideology bandwagon. We are focused on meeting the developmental needs of our students, allowing them to be active participants in their learning and to feel safe and cared for while growing as well-rounded individuals and as contributors to their communities.