We all look forward to those special days throughout the year when parents and grandparents come into the center to create, explore, and discover together with their children. This year we began our Thanksgiving celebration in the sanctuary where the children sang favorite songs for their families. Later in the classrooms families enjoyed special snacks prepared by the children and shared in the children’s daily experiences of paint, collage, clay, blocks, stories, and pretending!
A family potluck dinner of favorite family recipes was held to celebrate Sukkot and the Thanksgiving season. Watercolor papers prepared by the children were used by parents to trace the children’s hands and add messages of gratitude. Handprint leaves from all the families are now hanging outside the classrooms on our tree of gratitude.
This fall, as we began a new school year, parents were asked to share their hopes and dreams for their children by writing their wishes on a ribbon that would become part of a school-wide art project. In the studio the children constructed beaded wires and added their own hopes and dreams to the project. We hope that these dreams will become part of the early childhood experience at Ohav Shalom.
Our school year began in September with an evening when parents and teachers prepared photo albums for the children. A wide array of scrapbooking materials and tools were provided for the design of the album covers. Each family filled their child’s album with family photos. When the albums were presented to the children in class as a gift from their parents, the children’s excitement and delight was wonderful! The albums will now be available to the children throughout the year. For the younger children they provide a reassuring connection to home, and for the older children an endless source of conversation and sharing.
This year our garden was overflowing with gourds the children had planted last spring. Our home-grown gourds now decorate our classrooms, serve as produce in our classroom “farm market,” provide many opportunities for painting and drawing activities, and even supply additional building materials for block constructions. However, by far the children’s favorite Sukkot activity is gathering inside our indoor sukkah for songs and stories. It is indeed a magical space enclosed by fabric walls and lit only by the overhead twinkling lights. We are always reluctant to take it down, and each fall leave it up far beyond the end of Sukkot!
We welcomed old and new friends to our first days of classes. There were many reunions and just a few brief tears! The weather was glorious and shared playground activities helped forge new friendships and ease those first-day jitters. The beginning of the Jewish New Year with Rosh Hashanah was celebrated in our classrooms with snacks of apples and honey, apple printing, and the blowing of the shofar. Families brought food and groceries for the local food bank, an ongoing commitment Ohav Shalom has made to the North Hills Community Outreach. It was an exciting start – we can’t wait to see what our new preschool year brings!
Rabbi Milkow and Danielle West attended the opening of the Reggio Emilia exhibit at the Convention Center, The Wonder of Learning: The Hundred Languages of Children Exhibition.
In 1991, Newsweek hailed the preschools and infant-toddler centers of the municipality of Reggio Emilia, Italy as among the best in the world. International acclaim and interest followed, and “The Hundred Languages of Children” exhibition was created to inform the world about the work of the children and teachers of Reggio Emilia. The exhibit has traveled to thirty-one countries, including forty cities in the United States. In each host city, the exhibition’s positive impact has reportedly led to an increased focus on the quality of early education programs in local communities. The 8,000 square-foot exhibition of the work of the children and teachers in the infant-toddler and preschool programs of the municipality of Reggio Emilia, Italy makes visible their learning process and the strong image of the child. Through experiencing the exhibition, viewers can deepen their understanding of children’s thinking and an approach to collaboration- and relationship-based learning. The exhibition is composed of six sections and a variety of media, including three-dimensional objects, videos, booklets, audio recordings, and children’s work. Additionally, the Atelier (Studio) of Light will offer children and adults an interactive experience with light, shadow, transparency, and reflection, and includes various materials for their use.
Each year the Pittsburgh Agency for Jewish Learning has honored teachers and dedicated volunteers in Jewish educational institutions for their work with their students. This June two educators from Ohav Shalom were honored for their contributions to our preschool and religious school. Danielle West, a Sunday School teacher, member of the Temple Board, Leadership Committee, and President of the Parent Committee has worked with parents, educators, and Temple members to bring Reggio Emilia practices into our program. Kimberly Schorr, former preschool parent and educator, and more recently, Sunday School teacher, brings a wonderful energy, creativity, and joy of learning into her work with the children. Congratulations to both of our Unsung Heroes!