Let’s get to know each other

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This article is meant to serve as a starting point. A place to begin an ongoing dialog about who we are, how we think, and most importantly, how we approach early childhood education, to help you get to know us.

When selecting your child’s/families’ first early learning experience, what should you be looking for? As someone who has been working in the field of Early Childhood Education for 25 + years, it is my strong belief that a school and its faculty must speak a “Common Language.” Our “Common Language” is what enables us to communicate with one another clearly, to delve deeply into meaningful conversation, and to plan collaboratively, with direction and goals. Who are we at the Early Childhood Center at JCCNNJ and how is our school different as compared to other preschools?

The JCCNNJ is a progressive, Reggio-Emilia Inspired nursery school based on Sheva: JCC’s of North America’s Early Learning Framework. Why is this important information and what does it mean?

Reggio Emilia was first developed in Reggio Emilia, Italy, after World War II, by psychologist Loris Malaguzzi and parents in the community. It is an approach that puts forth that children are constructivist learners and are driven by their own interests, experiences, and desire to learn. Reggio teaches us that there are 100 Languages of Children: 100 different ways of thinking, discovering and learning. Our Reggio-Inspired preschool will focus on experiential learning, where students will be invited to participate in all areas of classroom life and our classroom environments will be material-rich, to afford each student moving through our space multiple opportunities to participate in hands-on, developmentally appropriate learning experiences. A primary role of a Reggio-inspired teachers is to observe and track the growth of children both individually and as a class community through documentation. This means that when one walks into our classroom spaces, there will be printed explanation (documentation) of much of what our students are doing over the course of their days at school.

The Sheva Early Learning Framework is aligned with the culture and teachings of Judaism in everyday life, values and principles. The Jewish lenses serve as a tool, a prism through which we overlay our traditions, our study and our Jewish philosophy. The core elements are the fundamental components of our program and are deeply rooted in the latest research on child development. The seven core elements of the Sheva Framework are:

  1. Children as Constructivist Learners
  2. Early Childhood Directors as Visionaries
  3. Early Childhood Educators as Professionals
  4. Families as Engaged Partners
  5. Environments as Inspiration for Inquiry
  6. Discover CATCH as Sh’mirat HaGuf (taking care of our bodies)
  7. Israel as a Source and Resource.

As educators, we understand that our world today requires that children master skills at earlier ages, primarily because of the core curriculums that are an integral part of elementary school education. We also know that early school experiences, particularly preschool, are incredible opportunities for students to more fully grow in ALL areas of development. Being ever-mindful of the Reggio-Inspired approach and the Sheva Early Learning Framework as our guiding principles, we approach learning and education by looking at the whole child and including all areas of development: Social, Emotional, Physical and Intellectual in all walks of classroom life. Each classroom is set up with work centers that focus on the development of specific skills and each work center incorporates different tools, all of which are intentionally placed in the centers to help build skills. As examples: our writing centers are furnished with all sorts of writing tools: scissors, hole punchers, tape, paper, crayons. Our block centers have multiple kinds of blocks, in varying sizes. This is because there are multiple pre-math, math and literacy concepts that are all incorporated in block building. Our belief is that by providing experiential learning opportunities, our students will begin to build the foundations needed to become lifelong learners, which is our ultimate goal: infusing a love of learning that each student will take with him or her upon moving on to elementary school while simultaneously ensuring that each child feels incredible about who s/he is at school.

It is my hope that we can continue this conversation as each of you continue on your families’ journey. If you would like to schedule a time to delve more deeply into anything and everything in the world of early childhood education, please let me know. My door is open and I welcome the opportunity to connect!

– Debra

To meet our staff and schedule a tour of new facility, please call 201-666-6610.