We believe that young children learn best by doing. Our classrooms are divided into learning centers with dynamic, experiential activities for children to explore, collaborate with their peers, and actively construct knowledge about our world. Individually and in groups, the children develop their understanding of simple concepts and use them to grasp more complex ideas. With young children, there is a broad range of developmentally appropriate acquisition of skills. This is reflected in the differentiation, overlap, and expansion of curriculum in the nursery, pre-kindergarten, and kindergarten classes.
Play is the medium through which children explore and learn about themselves and others. Our classrooms are filled with engaging materials, such as blocks, sand, play- dough, costumes and paint. The students joyfully and imaginatively express themselves, share discoveries, and build upon their learning. We kindle children's curiosity and encourage them to ask questions, take risks in learning, make choices, and solve problems. We also support the children's social skills and their emerging independence. Our curriculum is built on an interdisciplinary approach to learning. Subjects such as language arts, social studies, Hebrew, math, and science are woven together. We draw our most powerful themes from Jewish and American holidays, family and community, and nature. During the year, additional topics emerge which reflect the interests of a class. In this way, we combine cultural identity, fields of knowledge, and an expanded view of the world.
- Language Arts
- Social Studies
- Judaic Studies
- Hebrew Language and Israel
- Physical Education
Our primary goal in language and literacy development is to help children use language comfortably and effectively to communicate ideas, thoughts, and feelings. The whole classroom is a center for language arts. Through activities in art, music, cooking, creative dramatics, coupled with games and manipulatives, the children expand their vocabulary and language patterns. They learn to use language to talk about experiences and develop skills of comprehension and interpretation. Listening, speaking, writing, and reading are all parts of our language arts program. We provide a range of experiences that lay the foundation for more formal academic learning in the Lower School.
Strong oral language skills support all areas of learning, and at this age the children are mastering spoken language. They are speaking to their friends, sharing ideas, and learning to work out problems on their own and with the support of their teachers. Teachers model the intricacies of language, extending and elaborating on the children’s ideas and vocabulary. Through questioning, we help the students stretch their thinking skills. Phonemic awareness activities promote hearing similarities and differences in the sounds of letters and words. The children are immersed in an environment with many types of meaningful print such as poems, labels, and signs. Daily painting, drawing, and writing activities allow children to represent their experiences through art and written work. Language and literacy pre-reading skills, such as letter and sound recognition, rhyming and alliteration, and initial and final consonant sounds are taught in kindergarten. Teachers read to the children daily, and provide many opportunities to discuss the stories and create books. We strive to foster a life-long love of literature.
Our social studies curriculum helps children build awareness and connections to others. Students begin by learning and expressing themselves as individuals. They gradually broaden their lenses as they come to understand themselves within the context of their family, school, and greater community.
As children interact with one another, they begin to see themselves as part of a larger group. Working collaboratively in early childhood encourages children to make choices and accept responsibility for those choices. The children practice conflict resolution, develop empathy for one another, and learn to respect and celebrate their similarities and differences.
In the nursery and pre-kindergarten, the classes focus on the study of themselves and their families. This reflects their emotional growth in the process of separation and the development of trust. In the kindergarten, children expand their perspective by learning about their peers and exploring our school community.
Our namesake, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, a role model of social action, is a constant inspiration for hesed (acts of kindness), tikkun olam (improving the world), and tzedakah (charitable acts). Our children prepare food for soup kitchens, make blankets for a family shelter, and sort materials for recycling. Through action, we hope to connect the children to the larger Jewish and world communities.
Children develop a foundational understanding of math using concrete hands-on activities and visual materials. Our goal is for the children to see that math is an integral part of their everyday life. Mathematical concepts are applied in block building, baking, art, sports, and in our daily attendance. We use multi-sensory tools such as an abacus, Stern Math (™) Blocks, Cuisenaire Rods®, Geoboards, Ten Frames, Pattern Blocks, and counting manipulatives. They eagerly play, manipulate, question, analyze, and explore mathematical concepts and acquire skills.
We teach one-to-one correspondence, counting and comparing numbers, estimation, number relationships and combinations, sorting and classification, measurement, shapes, patterns, graphing, and number writing. We aim to develop the children’s fluency with numbers, confidence as problem solvers, and appreciation for math as a powerful tool in everyday life. Throughout the year, a wide variety of strategies and resources are used to meet our students’ range of abilities and needs.
In kindergarten, we begin to incorporate Singapore Math® (which is also used in the Lower School). Singapore Math® emphasizes the development of strong number sense, mental math skills, and problem solving. Our focus is on mastery, rather than memorization. The scope and sequence is based on research in child development that draws on best practices from around the world. Each new unit begins with conversation, modeling, and group exercises that help students think about concepts in a flow from concrete to visual to abstract. Next, the children have guided practice time, where they reinforce their learning cooperatively or individually.
Our science curriculum fosters inquiry and investigation. The children engage in the scientific method as they observe, question, hypothesize, experiment, describe, and record data. We nurture the students’ innate curiosity about the world around them and build their critical thinking skills. The students’ daily life is rich with science learning. They experiment with various materials, such as sand and water. Through cooking and baking activities, the children measure and combine ingredients, comment on textures, flavors, and scents, and notice cause and effect in chemical changes. During art, students discover how colors mix and how different media can be manipulated. The children eagerly take part in outdoor science learning. Our communal rooftop space allows for hands-on gardening experiences. The children plant flower bulbs, study insects, pick vegetables and herbs for cooking, and harvest sunflower seeds for roasting.
Young children naturally wonder and ask questions. We embrace opportunities for learning as they arise and encourage children to hypothesize and take learning risks. We set up experiments to test different predictions, ask experts, read non-fiction books, and expand our research using the classroom computer. We prepare our classroom environment for science exploration and use tools such as magnifying glasses, prisms, mirrors, and balance scales. The children examine and handle natural objects, such as beeswax, pinecones, rocks, and seashells. During multi-sensory experiments, teachers ask prompting questions and focus observations. We provide time to talk about what we notice and document our process through illustrations, dictations, writing, or photographs.
Throughout the school year, students take part in scientific study that is integrated into our thematic units. We learn about biological science through the seasons, planting, fruits and seeds, animal habitats/hibernation, the life cycle of bees and pollination, metamorphosis of butterflies, and class pets. In addition, we study the physical branch of science through topics including light and shadow, sound and instruments, melting and freezing, and recycling.
The goal of our Judaic Studies program is to celebrate the joy of Jewish living and connect to the land and people of Israel. Jewish holidays, Jewish values, t’fillah (prayer), Hebrew language, Torah learning, and the study of Israel are central to our Early Childhood Division. Through a pluralistic approach stemming from the teachings of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, children are encouraged to express their thoughts, ideas, and questions. Our hope is that through meaningful experiences the children will develop a strong Jewish identity and appreciation for our rich heritage.
Shabbat and the Jewish holidays are at the core of our curriculum. We happily anticipate the arrival of Shabbat each week by preparing challah and sharing in a joyful Kabbalat Shabbat (welcoming Shabbat) ceremony. Through song, discussion, cooking, drama, dance, art and storytelling, we engage in a multi-sensory study of each holiday and infuse Judaic learning across the curriculum. The children observe, explore, and learn about the significance of rituals in the classroom. The students then create Shabbat and holiday objects to take home for their own family celebrations.
Daily t’fillah (prayer) fosters the development of the spiritual essence each child. In the morning, we gather together as a class community for t’fillah. A tranquil and contemplative atmosphere is created that is different from the rhythm of the rest of the school day. The children learn the meaning of the traditional Hebrew prayers and have the opportunity to lead songs and express their gratitude. Traditional blessings are taught throughout the natural course of the day, such as before and after meals.
We teach Jewish values to the children through modeling and concrete activities, such as bikkur cholim (calling a sick classmate) and hachnassat orchim (welcoming guests). Preserving the earth and taking care of the environment is emphasized in connection to the holiday of Tu B’Shevat and the Bible story of Creation. In kindergarten, the children are introduced to Torah study, highlighting key stories and characters in the Book of Genesis.
Hebrew is woven into the fabric of our classrooms. Throughout the day, the children spontaneously sing the Hebrew songs and finger plays we teach. They count, discuss the weather, name colors, and describe articles of clothing and food in Hebrew. With ongoing exposure to Hebrew language, the children learn the meaning of familiar routines and instructions. Hebrew books and poems are also a vibrant part of classroom life. In addition, Hebrew is practiced through prayers, blessings, and Jewish holiday rituals.
In kindergarten, small group Hebrew lessons build vocabulary and simple sentence formation. The children delight in learning Hebrew alphabet letters and writing their Hebrew names. Our weekly challah preparation for Shabbat is conducted completely in Hebrew.
The Jewish people are bound in heart, mind, and history to Israel. Bringing a far-away land and culture to the understanding of young children is a challenge. Enjoying Israeli music and food, and sharing stories and pictures help children to connect to the vibrancy of Israeli life and culture. One of the highlights of the school year is the celebration of Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel Independence Day), a time when the kindergarten classrooms are transformed into Israeli markets for students and faculty to visit.
Art enhances all areas of learning and enables children to express themselves freely and creatively. Daily art experiences are offered to the children in the classrooms. Through the process of art, children share what they know, see, feel or imagine. Children explore open-ended materials such as clay, finger paints, and collage materials, leaving an imprint of their unique perspective on the world. In addition, the pre-kindergarten and kindergarten children participate in art class in our studios once a week.
Our classrooms are filled with music and dramatic expression. The children sing together, play musical games, and use instruments. In addition, our classes meet once a week with our music teacher. We interpret the music and explore rhythm, tempo, and volume. Listening to various genres of music, we expose children to different cultures and styles.
Our classrooms and school library provide a cozy atmosphere for children to explore the world of books. Each class visits the school library once a week. In the library, the children hear a variety of stories and discuss and respond to the literature. Kindergarten children participate in author studies. Additionally, the librarians help students choose books that appeal to them that they can borrow to take home for a week to enjoy.
Our physical education program encourages and cultivates children’s physical development through participation in sports, movement activities, and outdoor play. All students attend weekly physical education classes in the school gym. These classes promote cardiovascular fitness and enhance strength, balance, body control, and spatial acuity. Physical education activities also engender a cooperative spirit and good sportsmanship.In creative movement class, the children explore a range of motions and further develop motor skills. Wiggling, running, and leaping, the children imaginatively move their bodies through space and alternate between stillness and activity. The nursery and pre-kindergarten classes participate in creative movement once a week. The kindergarten participates twice weekly.