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Insights from the Intersection of Childhood and Education

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Welcome to Preschool!

Preschool officially begins this week but our teachers have been busy setting up the classrooms and preparing for back-to-school night (happening later today!). But really, they are not only fun and enthusiastic teachers, they're also fantastic interior decorators. Here are a few notes on how to create a welcoming, homey classroom (and home?):

The busy scene above resulted in this serene setting later on in the day...

There is clearly a retro phone thing going on! Remember the whirring sound of the rotary dial?

Inviting, cozy nooks abound.

One of the preschool's decorating secrets is that you'll walk around a classroom and suddenly you'll spot a little surprise that you did not notice before, such as Jack the Fish, who, it turns out, has been in the Blue Room for a few years!

Why put crayons in a simple box when they can be in cute little jars on a two-tier server?

On the closet door: No ordinary bland bags, oh no!

Baskets, wooden bins, cute bowls corral tactile bits and pieces to dig into: shells, glass beads, and blocks, but of course, no ordinary blocks...

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

An Akiba-Schechter Visit Echoes in China

Preschoolers in Beijing show off their gifts from Akiba-Schechter

At the end of May, our preschool hosted a group of early childhood educators from China. The multi-day visit was a highlight of the school year for our school, so it was especially meaningful to recently receive the following message and photos from our Chinese guests and hear how our children's messages and gifts made their impact in preschools in China: 

Here's the message we received from the trip coordinator:

"Thanks for being so open, warm, and willing to exchange ideas and thoughts. The arrangement to visit different classes, meeting with staff and teachers of different roles, and having a mom who speaks Chinese and is highly involved in your program really helped us to obtain a full picture of the school and gain an in-depth understanding of how teaching and learning takes place at Akiba-Schechter Jewish Day School. Thanks also for giving the visitors opportunities to present their own programs and opening further discussions. We were all moved and inspired by the home-like environment, the harmonious atmosphere, the documentation, and the love at Akiba."

Some individual reactions from our Chinese visitors:

“The curriculum is what I would love to learn the most, it’s challenging but also opened my mind. The portfolio of the children were also inspiriting, thanks for being so open.”

“Reggio is really taking place there.”

“The Jewish culture has been well integrated into the daily life in the program.”

“The documentation was amazing.”

“Thanks for your generosity of sharing without any withholding”

“We find that this is the program that is most closely aligned with RYB’s culture, we would love to continue the conversation and sharing what’s going on both sides.”

“I would give 100 out of 100 for this learning experience”

“I would love to bring what I learned to my practice in China.”

We were happy to hear that in early July, our Chinese visitors shared their Akiba-Schechter learning experience in Beijing. More than 500 people watched the video, and they included early childhood professionals or parents with young children.

We look forward to continuing our relationship and to many more mutually beneficial exchanges!

Friday, May 26, 2017

The Preschool Community Extends to China

This year, the Akiba-Schechter Preschool and Kindergarten has truly gone international. While we've always had a diverse student body and faculty hailing from Europe, Asia and Israel, and of course all over the United States, and while our study tours of the early childhood educational center in Reggio Emilia in Italy are in their third year, we have now built a connection across the Pacific with early-childhood educators in China!

During this year's study tour at Reggio Emilia in March, Preschool Director Carla Goldberg met with Yinna Zhang from the Erikson Institute, a graduate school for child development in Chicago. Ms. Zhang serves as the liaison between Erikson and teachers/directors in China and arranges study tours for early childhood educators and directors from China to spend three weeks in Chicago to visit a few schools. On these visits, Chinese educators do a "deep dive" at each school, spending several days to really get to know administrators, teachers and children.

We are so happy that a group of early childhood educators from Beijing spent three days at Akiba this past week. They observed in classrooms, interacted with students, and answered the children's questions about school in China.

They shared pictures with the children and taught them some songs in Chinese. On two days, everybody had lunch together; this was a great opportunity for us to share about Akiba-Schechter and for the visitors to share about their program. What a wonderful opportunity for Akiba-Schechter teachers to share their expertise and experience, and also to learn about school in China!

Gift-giving is an important part of Chinese culture and so, in anticipation of the visit, each classroom created a gift for the teachers from China, such as a welcome sign, a book from the students with pictures and photos, and one class even baked cookies for the teachers and their students. Many of the gifts included writing in Chinese, which was done by Akiba-Schechter parents. One of Akiba's Chinese parents joined for part of the days to share her experience here.

On Friday the visit ended with sharing Akiba's Shabbat celebration with the visiting teachers. It was a beautiful celebration, and they loved being a part of it.

Hosting a delegation of Chinese early childhood educators was a tremendously meaningful experience for everyone, a true cultural exchange. Akiba-Schechter faculty was so proud to share how they teach, and specifically how they work on creating a community in their classroom and with their students' families. We plan to keep in touch with our new peers in China and send emails/videos from our students so that we can share the two worlds. We are happy to have extended our community to China and to have this opportunity to learn and share!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Exploring the World of Dr. Seuss

In the Yellow Room, the children have been busy creating. Researching on Dr. Seuss and his creatures by reading books and looking at life-size images of his characters inspired the children to create their own "Dr. Seuss" characters.

First, they made a rough draft of what they wanted to create. Then, taking what aspects they wanted to keep, they made a line drawing with permanent marker and then painted it with water color. These drawings served as their blueprints in creating their character sculptures, using recycled materials like plastic bottles and shredded paper, as well as clay, felt, pipe cleaners, etc.

After finishing their sculptures, the children wrote stories about their creatures, including where they came from, what their names are, and what they like to eat. Following Dr. Seuss, they also got creative with words, using silly spelling and working on rhymes.

Now the question is, where will the children's imaginations take them next?