This article was originally published in JWeekly.
On a sunny morning last week, a group of early childhood professionals walked around a garden thinking and talking about how to grow Jewish values along with green leafy vegetables.
They were among 150 teachers and administrators from 10 Jewish preschools who gathered Feb. 18 in Palo Alto for a conference for early childhood educators.
Titled “Under the Fig Tree,” the four-hour event took place at the Taube Koret Campus for Jewish Life. It was held under the auspices of the Oshman Family JCC’s Leslie Family Early Childhood Education Center.
Much of the focus was on an educational theory called constructivism.
For example, one group of educators examined how to combine music and building skills by constructing instruments out of plastic milk jugs, wire, spare wood and old bicycle tires. Other teachers plunged their fingers into sand, water, clay and fingerpaint as they explored play in an open-ended environment.
“Constructivism is an approach that we and some other Jewish Bay Area preschools are now following,” explained Zvi Weiss, the Palo Alto JCC’s director of early childhood strategic initiatives. The Leslie Family school (formerly named T’enna Preschool) has been working for nine years to become a completely constructivist Jewish preschool.
Constructivism, also known as the Reggio Emilia approach, has educators partnering with the children in constructing their learning.
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© 2014 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.