Philosophies & Curriculum
We are a developmentally appropriate program influenced by Jewish values and culture that balances child and teacher initiated learning and supports developing social skills. We take our inspiration from many sources, primarily Jewish teachings and the deep experience and education of our faculty. Our play-based approach is guided by the children’s curiosity and interests, which are cultivated within a warm environment that emphasizes social and emotional development. Children learn to develop trusting relationships with peers and adults, as well as a growing sense of independence, self-awareness and self-regulation.
Our loving teachers show kindness and respect for our children and listen to their individual voices. They help children recognize their own needs and those of others, while encouraging conflict resolution and problem-solving. We share a belief and trust in children’s capabilities to grow as individuals and in groups. Our goal is for children to embrace diversity, respect others, display empathy and actively engage in the community. The faculty is well prepared to present both planned activities and to follow the children’s lead in exploring ideas and developing their capabilities.
Temple Emanu-El Preschool is unique in that our intimate indoor and outdoor spaces are integrated with a synagogue environment. We are valued and supported by Congregation Emanu-El and we draw upon its resources, including the regular participation of clergy in preschool programming. Our families also benefit from belonging to a community that is sustained well beyond the preschool years.
- Conflict Resolution
- Diverse Points of View on Family-Based Social Issues
- Emergent Curriculum
- Jewish Curriculum
We strive to provide the following for your child:
- A quality Jewish environment where children can grow at their own rate taking into account the fact that no two children develop in the same sequence or at the same time, and that each child is unique in his/her own personality, learning style and background.
- An environment where children can develop a positive self-image, learn to handle and manage their emotions in an appropriate way and to develop a sense of responsibility for the themselves, each other and their classroom while being given the opportunity to make choices and solve problems.
- The opportunity to develop social skills that enable them to participate fully in the program and to be part of both large and small group interactions. Additionally, children develop skills that enable them to work through conflicts both constructively and independently.
- The opportunity to act on their environment through a concrete, play-oriented approach to learning and to allow children to value their own ideas and questions and to discover principles about their world
- The opportunity to explore, question, practice and pretend in order to discover the world around them.
- A quality Jewish early childhood experience, and to build positive Jewish memories for the children in our school.
The Temple Emanu-El Preschool provides a safe, nurturing and supportive environment in a Jewish setting. Our program promotes the physical, social, emotional, cognitive and creative growth of young children while responding to the needs of families.
The curriculum emphasizes an interactive process where children learn through a concrete, play-oriented approach. Children learn through active exploration and interaction with adults, with other children, and with materials. The teaching faculty designs the curriculum based on their observations of the children and their reflections on those observations as well as their knowledge of child development. Activities provided are both directed and non-directed and designed to promote independence and self-esteem. We emphasize learning over time and through real life skills. In this way we create a curriculum that is meaningful and relevant to the children in our program.
The practices of kindness, listening and inclusion are demonstrated and encouraged by adults so that children learn to take responsibility for themselves, each other, their work and their classroom. Each child is viewed as a unique person with an individual pattern of growth and development. Different levels of ability, development, and learning styles are expected and accepted, and used to design appropriate activities.
Our school reflects the diversity of our families and faculty and encourages all parents and guardians to build community for themselves from this rich resource. We have constituents of diverse faiths, home languages, ethnicities, sexual orientation, age, abilities, economic and work status. We strive to create a community that includes these markers of identity and various potential points of view in a setting that promotes kindness, tolerance, inquiry and support.
The preschool faculty supports various methods of resolving conflicts. We believe that using diverse methods will help a child to develop a variety of coping skills. The faculty works with the children to empower them to express their feelings, to state what they want and eventually to problem solve with each other independently. While we have similar overall goals for each child, we individualize our interactions to meet each child at his developmental level and help him or her learn the “next step.”
Diverse Points Of View On Family-based Social Issues
At Temple Emanu-El Preschool we embody, support and represent social values that are inclusive in regard to a wide variety of social issues in areas of religious perspective, sexual orientation and family configuration. These broad values are congruent with those of Congregation Emanu-El and the Reform Jewish movement. This approach to social values also reflects the spirit of the Bay Area community known for its inclusion of a wide variety of perspectives and life styles.
Children might initiate discussions on social topics that may lead faculty to represent, in an age appropriate fashion, the inclusive social values we support. For example a discussion of families may include the fact that some of our families, faculty and congregants live in households with two mothers or fathers, or that same sex couples can be married.
In a similar fashion our program represents an approach to educating children about Judaism that is eclectic, but also limiting in terms of the inclusion of holidays such as Christmas. When a child asks why we don’t celebrate Christmas at preschool, we let that family know so they are prepared to further that discussion with their child at home.
It is important that while we pride ourselves on being inclusive we remember that not everyone shares a common belief and that right and wrong are not absolute. Educating children is the transmission of values. We encourage dialogue and the belief that a diversity of perspectives is valuable and worthy of respect even while we, as a school, include specific points of view in our mission and practice.
Our preschool curriculum is designed to be appropriate for the age span of the children within the group and is implemented with attention to the different needs, interests, and developmental levels of the children. Experiences are provided that meet the children’s needs and encourage learning in all areas of the children’s development: physical, emotional, social, cognitive and creative through an integrated approach. Any activity that stimulates one dimension of development and learning affects other dimensions as well.
Our curriculum emphasizes learning as an interactive process where faculty prepare the environment to enable children to learn through active exploration and interaction with adults, other children and materials. Our learning activities and materials are concrete, real and relevant to the lives of children. The children’s learning process takes place through play. Play is child-initiated, child-directed and teacher-supported. Learning results as children touch, manipulate, and experiment with objects and interact with people.
Our curriculum provides learning experiences that take into account the fact that each child develops at his/her own rate and that children have different sequences and timing of growth. Each child is regarded as unique with his/her own personality, learning style and background. Our curriculum activities provide for a wide range of developmental interests and varied abilities.
Our teaching faculty plans curriculum based on the observations they have made of the children on a daily basis. Our faculty meets twice per week to discuss their observations, reflect upon their observations as well as good early childhood practice, and then plan an appropriate and meaningful curriculum for the children. We take an inquiry-based approach that values children’s ideas and theories, allows them to be tested over time and then documents their efforts.
Our daily curriculum is set up with a balance of varied opportunities for learning. There is time for large group active play as well as a less active, quiet, small group experience; time for both mixed age and single age experiences. Our program also provides daily outdoor play in which children can practice using their large muscles and express themselves in the outside environment freely.
Utilizing an emergent curriculum allows teachers a flexible approach to curriculum and plans projects based on children’s interests and teachers’ talents. This is an integrated approach that believes children learn in the context of what is relevant to their lives and interests and through exploration and play. With emergent curriculum, teachers are guiding the children to create opportunities to practice skills such as large and small motor activities, language skills, and theory building. Guided by teachers, this creates opportunities for exploration, communication and learning over time.
For example, the children saw an ant trail disappear in winter and reappear in the spring. This peaked the children’s interest. The teachers read the children some books about bugs, the children “turned into” bugs (costumes), wrote stories about bugs (writing, drawing) and built bug homes (manipulative).
One of the most important gifts teachers can instill in children attending a Jewish preschool is a positive feeling toward Judaism. At Temple Emanu-El Preschool, children discover the meaning of our religion through activities and discussions that reinforce the joy and the pride of being Jewish. They taste the sweet honey on Rosh Hashanah, feel the texture of the soil as they plant trees on Tu Bishvat and every Friday, they bake challah and welcome Shabbat with their teachers, friends and family.
Even if they never attend another Jewish school or synagogue, their time in our preschool should leave them with happy, warm memories of both everyday and holiday experiences shared with classmates and teachers. As they grow into adulthood they will make their own decisions about spirituality, religious practice and Israel. Our goal is to give them a wonderful, positive connection to this amazing heritage.
In addition secular holidays, like Dr. Martin Luther King Day, are included to create a complete and integrated experience.