JCC Early Childhood Program Revolves Around Research, Nature, and Community
By Kathy Davis
Shalom Austin’s JCC Early Childhood Program (ECP), dedicated to research-based education for almost 20 years, has a thriving program that revolves around the Reggio Emilia-inspired Sheva program certified by the JCCs of North America. Sheva highlights parent/educator partnerships, community involvement, and providing a variety of “provocations” and interesting “loose parts” to nurture and stimulate students’ natural curiosities.
The ECP prioritizes professional excellence as all educators are degreed, certified, or have college training in addition to experience. Educators receive cutting edge professional development – ranging from the brain to sensory and speech development and from theological study to Baby Sign.
The ECP offers enrichment activities such as Spanish immersion, Coordinated Approach To Child Health (CATCH) activities, and professional music lessons as part of the regular program, as well as optional classes such as STEMgineering, Yogalicious, and International B’Tayavon Baking (Spanish Immersion). These offerings are based upon research determining not only what is important for physical, social, and emotional child growth, but upon key national and local focus.
The ECP also is involved in international projects such as the Israeli-based Partnership2Gether program – where students are currently working on joint activities for the upcoming 70th birthday of Israel in April 2018. Through this program, children participate in project-based learning such as art, folk dances and songs, e-mails to schools in other countries, and joint gardening projects. Locally, the ECP partners with a host of charities, and individual classes regularly conduct tzedakah projects donating nearly $5,000 each year. Children learn that they can and do make a difference in their local communities and the world.
Community involvement also includes the Grandparent’s Club, under the leadership of Shelley Zausmer and a pivotal core team, offering evening speakers, a wine and cheese gathering, and several grandparent/grandchild events fostering this crucial bond between families. The group plans to expand its offerings.
ECP students are considered “Constructivist Learners,” partnering with their educators when making choices, conducting research about their interests, or testing hypotheses. This core value helps the ECP rise above other schools, as educators develop curriculum based on the interests of the students rather than simply following a prescribed curriculum.
Nature is central to the Sheva philosophy, and learning is supported by the ECP’s location on the 40-acre Dell Jewish Community Campus which includes deer, trails, and organic gardens. ECP classrooms also include aspects of nature, considered to be “sources of inspiration.”
The ECP operates year-round for children from six weeks to five years of age with an academic school year stretching from late August to early June, and then Summer Camp Gan Kef offered in themed two week sessions. ■
To schedule a site visit, or for more information, please contact the ECP at (512) 735-8100 or e-mail Katie Faust at firstname.lastname@example.org.