By Robin Pappas, Director of Early Learning
Nine years ago, when our Early Childhood Center opened, we committed to providing a play-based, child-centered, and developmentally-appropriate preschool. Students took ownership of their learning, understood the process behind their projects, and most importantly, always had fun! Within the first 5 years we worked diligently to become accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).
We also found ourselves aligned with the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education, one that values the child as strong, capable, and resilient, and rich with wonder and knowledge. Every child has inherent curiosity and potential, and an interest to understand the world and their place within it.
As our journey progressed, we slowly removed “things” from the walls that had no meaning to the children. We began using photographs to tell our children’s stories as they explored and discovered the world around them. We began documenting children’s work, and displaying it to reflect the relationships being built between teachers and students. To bring a sense of calm to our rooms, we decluttered and decolored our classrooms, and we began using natural materials to encourage an appreciation of the world God has created, allowing us to seamlessly weave our Jewish values into each and every day.
Over time, our interest in the Reggio Emilia approach has intensified; we have read articles, participated in webinars, and attended national conferences. Now we are ready for a study trip to the region with two leading Jewish educators, Mara Bier, an early childhood educational consultant, and Dr. Naama Zoran, a developmental psychologist, and a Reggio Children International Representative for Israel. In May, I will travel to Italy with three of our ECC teachers; we will bring back what we learn for the benefit of our entire staff.
Just as our children our continually inspired by the world around them, we are inspired by worldwide best practices in early childhood education, and by our wonderful community here in Detroit. It is thanks to our generous donors that we will open a newly expanded ECC in Fall 2019.
I am delighted that we will be able to provide this education to more Jewish children. May we all go from strength to strength.