Overview of Preschool Program
Sheva (the number seven in Hebrew) has extraordinary power in Jewish thought and practice. It is the name of the JCCs of North America Early Learning Framework, and signifies the seven core elements of exemplary early childhood practice deeply rooted in the latest research on child development seen through a Jewish lens:
- Children as Constructivist Learners
We construct learning with young children when we understand and view children as capable and competent, co-creating meaningful experiences that are relevant to each child as an individual learner. This compels us to listen to and observe them carefully to co-construct learning, leading to their social-emotional and academic success
- Early Childhood Directors as Visionaries
A director who is visionary galvanizes a process for creating and living a shared vision for the school. This vision focuses on nurturing the minds, souls and hearts of our entire community. The ECE Director works closely with the leadership team, comprised of the two Site Directors, the Operations Manager, and the Administrative Assistants, as well as with the presidents of the Parents Association.
- Early Childhood Educators as Professionals
When teachers are part of an ongoing learning community, afforded the sacred time for personal and professional development, and are viewed by the JCC as part of the professional staff, their education, knowledge, experience and passion enriches their lives and the lives of young children and their families. Our early childhood educators engage in weekly reflective supervision and monthly professional development meetings to learn and reflect on their work with young children.
- Families as Engaged Partners
We invite families through ongoing, regular and meaningful conversations, to partner with us in the education and social emotional growth of their children. We value families as competent thinkers and learners and offer you opportunities to understand our educational philosophy. We support your parenting and together joyfully celebrate Jewish life. Families are invited to learn about Jewish holidays and classroom curriculum through a variety of family programs throughout the year.
- Environments as Inspiration for Inquiry
If our classrooms, hallways, indoor and outdoor spaces are an intentional place for children that provoke wonder, curiosity, intellectual engagement, creativity and fun, our schools will be a place that engages children in meaningful ways. Our spaces are flexible, materials are open ended and children have the freedom to interact with quality materials in their environment.
- Taking Care of Our Bodies
When we nurture a love of physical activity and encourage young children and their families to develop life-long healthy eating habits, they are able to learn and play in more meaningful ways. Children have opportunities for big body play each day, and snack times and cooking activities introduce children to healthy eating options.
- Israel as the Story of the Jewish People
We create powerful images and meaning about Israel for young children, to make ancient and modern Israel come alive through stories, music, dance, and art. We celebrate everyday life with values through a Jewish lens.
At the JCC Preschools, areas of development, such as social-emotional, creative, cognitive, literacy, fine and gross motor, are woven into the natural work in the classroom and provide a foundation for a child's social-emotional and academic success. Jewish culture is reflected through the organic integration of values, traditions and customs into the curriculum through music, language, literature, expressive arts, cooking, dance, and play.
Our curriculum is built on the foundation of our image of the child as a competent and capable individual with the potential to construct his or her own knowledge about the world in which we live. We are inspired by the philosophy and educational practices of the schools in Reggio Emilia, Italy and and reflect this through a Jewish lens.
Constructivism and emergent curriculum, together with Jewish values, provide the core principles of our approach to early childhood education. Constructivism asserts that children create knowledge and internalize values as a result of interacting with their physical and social world.
Emergent curriculum builds on the interests of the children through sustained project work facilitated by the teacher and guided by her sound understanding of child development.
Enrichment classes included in the curriculum:
- Music with Specialist
- Art with Specialist
- Creative Movement with Specialist
- Field trips (Pre-K classes only)
- Swim lessons (San Rafael Pre-K class only)
Optional after-school enrichment classes (additional fee) may include:
- Creative Movement
- Strumming and Drumming
2s (Nitzanim, Nevatim, Keshet)
San Rafael: 18 months (by September 1st of year enrolled) - 3½ years
Tiburon: 2 years (by September 1st of year enrolled) - 3 years
Building Trust, Relationships, and Independence
A child’s new school experience begins with building trusting relationships. For many young children this is their first group endeavor away from parents and primary caregivers. Trusting relationships between children and teachers begin on the first day when teachers welcome children warmly into their classroom, respond immediately to their physical and emotional needs, and encourage them to explore and engage with their peers in this new environment. Once children become acclimated, their innate, inquisitive nature takes over and they begin to meet exciting challenges and experiment with sensory stimulating materials and activities. Along with this independent exploration, during circle time and meal times, children are learning the social parameters around belonging to a classroom community.
Children enrolled in the toddler program need not be out of diapers.
3s (Aleph and Shorashim)
3 years (by September 1st of year enrolled) - 4 years
Developing Self-Expression, Self-Control, and Empathy
With support from their teachers, children develop language to communicate their needs and feelings, as well as their likes and dislikes. For example, “Do you want to play with me?”, “That’s too close” or “I don’t like it” are common phrases in a three year old classroom. Complex play develops as children gain the language to express themselves and communicate effectively with peers. Inevitably, challenges will arise which will require children to read social cues and exercise self-control. Because we recognize that children are just beginning to develop these skills, the teacher plays an important role in guiding the children through these processes. When a child(ren) has been hurt, either physically or emotionally, the teacher helps both children involved to identify and acknowledge their own feelings. The teacher also supports each child in understanding their role in the situation by helping them recognize and validate the feelings and needs of the other child (e.g., “Are you ok?”, “Is there anything I can do for you?”). This is the foundation upon which empathy is built.
4s and 5s (Beyt, Ilanot, Gimel, Etzim)
4 or 5 years (by September 1st of year enrolled)
Problem-Solving and Taking Responsibility for Self and Others
Now that children have developed healthy relationships and are honing in on their ability to express themselves accurately and appropriately, we begin to see a growing maturity in their interactions with both peers and adults. Children take more initiative in solving their own problems with less teacher involvement and use a richer “feelings” vocabulary with which to do so. For example, rather than simply stating “I don’t like it,” as they might in a three year old classroom, children are encouraged to say “I don’t like it when…” thus communicating their needs more specifically. The next step is to brainstorm a solution (“Let’s share it,” “I can play with you with I’m done”). The teacher’s role in scaffolding these interactions is to first ask the child a question such as “What have you tried?”, then encourage the child to try other strategies if the first was unsuccessful, and finally to reflect with the child on the outcome. This process gives children the opportunity to take responsibility for themselves while considering how their role impacts others.