Wow! What a fantastic start to our 2022-2023 school year! We have been so excited to both welcome our new students and to welcome back our returning students.
Our students have been having SO much fun. Despite a few tears and a little bit of trouble with separation, our students played together, made new friends, and explored our space. Overall, this week has been all about getting to know each other. Our students have been getting comfortable with their new classrooms and new educators. Our educators have been getting to know our new students and reacquainting themselves with our returning students. Speaking of new educators, we are so excited to welcome two new members to our team, Danielle Grimaldo and Cristin Pryblo! Danielle and Cristin teach in the Toddler Class and bring their incredible experience, bright and bubbly personalities, and new ideas to our team.
As we welcome our new educators to our team, it seems more than appropriate to share our intention for the year. Our intention is a positive, cohesive guiding value or theme that we can periodically reflect on/share/document as a whole community. This year we've chosen "Mishpacha" or "Family". This year we want to focus on connecting our families together and on celebrating each family's unique heritage, traditions, values, and experiences. We also want to hear from you! What does family mean to you? How do you spend time with your family and celebrate your time together?
We also want to share our traditions with you! We are fast approaching the High Holiday Season. You can read more about that below with words from our Director of Ruach and Youth Engagement, Grant Halasz (known to our students as Mr. Grant):
This past Shabbat welcomed in the new month of Elul, Elul is traditionally a time that we prepare ourselves for the High Holiday Season. This could be anything from taking some time for self-care to helping those in our community around us to prepare, cleaning up and preparing your home, and anything else that you find meaningful. Below there is a calendar with ideas of how you can prepare yourselves and your families for the season! There are questions and different activities to get into the mindset of the HHD Season. These are not the only things that you can do, however, they can serve as a good starting point for preparations. You can also find the calendar HERE if you need a slightly better image.
Congratulations to Amy Jacobs, director of the Temple Ohav Shalom Center for Early Learning and a member of Temple Ohav Shalom Center for Early Learning, for being accepted as a Wechsler Fellow.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh’s Wechsler Fellowship is an initiative to engage, develop and inspire leadership in the Pittsburgh Jewish community. Wechsler explores the work of our Jewish community organizations, cultivates new leaders, and strengthens the sense of connection among Jewish young professionals from the diverse religious, professional and educational backgrounds that form the fabric of the Pittsburgh Jewish community.
Wechsler Fellows are individuals ages 22-45 who have been carefully selected following an application and interview process.
It's almost time to say goodbye...
As we approach our final week of summer camp (next week: Just Dance!), we are taking a look back at the amazing time we've had these past six and a half weeks.
In our Art All About Me/Art Explosion Camp session, our campers had a blast painting, drawing, spraying, kneading, and molding to create beautiful and vibrant works of art. We painted with pinecones, created play dough, made beautiful sculptures, and gorgeous flags to decorate our sunshade. Our Mini-Campers honed their fine motor skills by creating beautiful pictures with stickers and markers, using colorful fabric strips to make a vibrant woven collaborative art piece, and were introduced to a number of new materials and loose parts in their sensory bin.
Our second week of camp (Kitchen Science) was an absolute blast! Our campers got to use kitchen staples in fun and creative ways! From making snow and slime to exploring the colors and textures of fruit to painting with ice cubes and salt, our campers had a ton of slimy, salty, stretchy fun! Meanwhile, our Mini-Campers made edible sand out of ground-up graham crackers, finger-painted with dyed yogurt, and explored the ins and outs of the kitchen in our homey playspace. The biggest hit with our Minis turned out to be their play with kinetic sand. Our Minis had a great time scooping and molding the sand into a variety of pretend treats!
During the Backyard Bugs session, our campers had such a fun time looking for and learning about the creepy crawlies that live in our backyard. We got up close and personal with ladybugs, earthworms, and pill-bugs. We also talked about which bugs need more space like bumblebees and spiders. Our campers also had time to create! We made bug art and bug hotels and habitats that will help our backyard pollinators thrive. Our week last week culminated in our very first water day of the summer! Campers had a blast playing in our kiddie pool, splash pad, and so much more! It was a great way to roll into the next session which was all about... (drumroll, please)... games and sensory exploration!
Our Game Time session was spent playing games and having sensational sensory experiences! Our campers got to play games they knew and they got to learn some new ones too! From Connect 4 to tetherball to bowling, our campers had a lot of fun in the sun all culminating in a wet and wild water day! Our minis had a blast as well! Our mini campers spent the week exploring colors, shapes, and textures with puzzles, kinetic sand, pompoms, stickers, and much more.
During our Book Art session, our campers had a great time making book art! We drew inspiration from Eric Carle and Dr. Seuss to make beautiful creations. They traced their feet (The Foot Book), made beautiful seascapes (One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish), and decorated a stunning butterfly (The Very Hungry Caterpillar). Some of our campers even made their own books! Meanwhile, our minis celebrated winter in July. They enjoyed a number of sensory experiences including making snowmen out of clay, creating paintings with pom-pom snowballs, and playing with fake snow.
During our Full STEAM Ahead session, Ms. Charissa's bunnies were a HUGE hit! Our Campers absolutely loved Snow White and Oreo/Leafeon/Cow Bunny and spent time feeding them, giving them water, and observing them. We spent our STEAM week learning about the science of plants. We planned a garden and got our hands dirty preparing the soil. Our Minis also loved spending time with the bunnies. They delighted in spending time outside playing in the soil and sand, blowing bubbles, and playing with chalk. Cars and ramps were a huge part of our Minis' STEAM exploration and they greatly enjoyed rolling different cars and trucks down the ramps and seeing how fast they could go!
This upcoming week is all about Animal Environments and we have a lot of fun projects planned. In addition to (possibly) another visit from our bunny friends, we will be creating birdhouses and bug hotels, examining nests and other animal habitats, and much more!
Hello to all reading this blog post. Please allow me to introduce myself; my name is Amy Jacobs. I am a Temple Member, a coordinator of the Shalom Tots program, and the acting Director of Early Learning here at Temple Ohav Shalom Center for Early Learning, or TOSCEL.
For those of you who are not already familiar, TOSCEL is an early childhood program that is guided by Jewish values and inspired by the philosophy of Reggio Emilia schools. We are proud of our commitment to supporting and welcoming families into our community no matter their background or their relationship to Judaism. At TOSCEL, children and families find a warm, nurturing environment where a love of learning is established and nurtured. We are proud of the educational opportunities we provide to area families and we are so grateful to have been able to welcome our existing families back this year and to invite new families into our community.
After a year-long hiatus of in-person programming due to the global pandemic, we returned for the 2021-2022 school year with a lot of work to do. We worked hard to recruit new families into our program while navigating our post-Covid world. With our Leadership Committee and the TOS Covid Task Force to guide us, we created policies and procedures designed to keep our community as safe as possible. We continue to have one of the most stringent Covid policies in the area preschools. Our standards, policies, and procedures have allowed us to minimize school and classroom closures, provide a safe working environment for our staff, and ensure the safety and health of our students.
Although this year had its challenges, it also brought a lot of joy. In addition to rebuilding our preschool, we were able to run and expand our programming for Shalom Tots. Shalom Tots is an initiative of Temple Ohav Shalom for families with children ages five and younger. The goal of Shalom Tots is to welcome, engage, and give young families in the community the opportunity to connect with each other while creating a foundation for the Jewish identity in our children. Shalom Tots offers a collection of programming, such as Friday night Tot Shabbat, Saturday morning Shabbat Sha-Brunch, and joint programming with PJ Library. In addition to our Shalom Tots program, we were proud and excited to be a part of this year’s Purim Carnival and Mitzvah Day among other events and we are excited to continue to show up for the youngest members of our community and their families.
We are excited to ring in the 2022-2023 school year with new programs, new partnerships, and new events, and we are excited to invite you along with us! If you would like to learn more about our current offerings, our plans for the future, or how you can get involved, please do not hesitate to reach out to me or to any one of our fantastic educators.
I am so grateful for our fantastic community. I would like to express my gratitude to Rabbi Weisblatt, Grant Halasz, Jackie Leicht, Aaron Brauser, Bob Gibbs, Beth Mongilio, Ellen Sapinkopf, and Cindy Harrison who have had a strong presence in the preschool and have shown incredible support for our program this year. I would also like to thank our fantastic educators and staff who have worked tirelessly to provide quality education and a warm, nurturing, and welcoming atmosphere for our students and families this year and in years past; Sandy Stover, Bonnie Valinsky, Jill Roskin, Deb Taylor, Jen Marinelli, Sara Devos, Shelley Piechowscz, Lisa Strabala, Charissa Ruth, Jennifer Mars, and Veronica Burke. And my final thanks go to our incredible families. Thank you for your ongoing support, your kindness, understanding, and flexibility in navigating this turbulent year, and for your trust in us. Thank you.
From the Director's Headphones
I’m often asked what my family is reading and what music we listen to that is kid friendly. Since I’m so often asked, I thought I would put it all in one place that can be shared.
What do we listen to? Honestly, not a lot of music! Some of our most listened to are:
Caspar Babypants- If you’re of a certain age, you may remember a song called Millions of Peaches...the frontman is now a kid’s artist, and not an awful one either. His songs are catchy and fun. He has some very silly ones (Our favorites are Helicopter, Bad Blue Jay, and Run Baby Run), as well as a couple of night time music and some Beatles covers.
The Okee Dokee Brothers- We were introduced to these guys from another parent when my oldest was in the preschool here years ago, and we’ve continued to enjoy them! So much so, that we went on a road trip last fall to hear them play live and pick up their most recent album! They fall on the folk/bluegrass spectrum. Their four big albums all have wonderful back stories to them: hiking the Appalachian Trail, canoeing down the Mississippi, spending time on a ranch, and spending time in Canada in the winter. From each of these experiences they created an album of songs to match.
Super Simple Songs- They have a lot of nursery rhymes, learning songs, and catchy songs for really young kids. One of our favorites is Do You Like Broccoli?
And that’s about it music wise! (Occasionally we get sucked into JoJo Siwa or Kidz Bob, but I try to limit that for my own sanity!)
Now, we don’t just drive around in silence. We tend to listen to a lot of audio books and most of all podcasts! I’ve always listened to podcasts, but I never really thought of finding any for my kids. A friend told me about What If World, a storytelling podcast for kids, and we were hooked! Podcasts will often guest star one each other’s show, so it’s easy to find more (and more and more…) Some of our favorites are:
What If World- Mr. Eric is the host of this wonderful world of stories. Every episode he answers kids that questions that children sent in. But these aren’t your run of the mill questions, these are “what if…” questions. “What if the lion and the elephant met up for spaghetti.” was the question in a recent episode. Mr. Eric takes these questions and weaves them into a story with a crazy cast of characters that he has created.
Story Pirates- This is another story telling podcast. In this one there is a band of Pirates that sail in a magical ship and have adventures. That part is just one part of the podcast, the other part are the stories that children send in. The Story Pirates take these stories and act them out, or write a song about it. The music aspect is so popular that they’ve created a few albums of them.
Wow in the World- Mindy and Guy Raz (yes, Guy Raz of Ted Talks and NPR) check out a science related topic every episode. This is far from a boring sit down lecture though. From getting stuck in a giant nose, to time travel, to making Guy Raz pretend to be different animals (all in the name of science, of course) Wow in the World makes science fun and interesting.
Pants on Fire- We all know the rhyme, but in this game show podcast they ask a kid to pick the expert from the liar. It’s an interesting listen and it’s fun to try to guess who the expert is and who is making stuff up as they go. Sometimes the one host can make some jokes that are meant for older kids, but everyone in my family enjoys it. (Gen-Z has a bunch of good ones, we also listen to The Alien Adventures of Finn Caspian sometimes)
Noodle Loaf and Ear Snacks- These two are geared towards the youngest kids. They’re full of silly songs and jokes and are around 10-15 minutes long.
Be Calm on Ah-way Island- This is a great bedtime or quiet time one. They tell calm and meditative stories. The narrator's voices are so soothing!
Do you have a favorite I’ve missed? Please let me know in the comments!
A sweet New Year
These first few weeks have flown by, and the children in the Preschool 2 class have noticed, and begun to show an interest in the cycle of the year. They’re noting that birthdays are coming up, the seasons are starting to change, and that there are holidays coming. While they have a daily meeting where they share a calendar, it was difficult for them to envision all of these changes and important dates on a ‘flat’ calendar. Along with their teachers, they have created a 3D calendar using a lazy susan and photos. This calendar has become a way for them to see what’s next, and a way for them to mark time in a meaningful way.
How wonderful that this interest has coincided with Rosh Hashanah! Rosh Hashanah is often referred to as the birthday of the world, and the beginning of a 10 day period of reflection for Jewish people that ends on Yom Kippur, the day of repentance.
As we prepare for the holidays, we use this opportunity to talk about the symbols of Roshahah with the children. The links will take you to some of the songs that we have been singing together:
Yom Kippur is a more somber day. Called the Day of Atonement, it is a chance for Jews to repent and ask for forgiveness from God and from others that they may have wronged. With the children, it’s an opportunity to talk about saying “I’m sorry” when they’ve done something that may have hurt another person, or made them feel angry and sad. We talk about how we can make things better in these situations beyond just saying sorry.
Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are a time that we teach the children (and to be honest, we all need a reminder about this) that it’s okay to make mistakes and that everyone does, but we can always ask for forgiveness and make things right.
Have a wonderful and sweet new year!
Sharing our Values
Over the summer our Early Learning Center Leadership team decided that the Jewish values that we had chosen in 2011 when we started our Reggio journey, didn’t necessarily define who we are now, in the 2018-19 school year. After meeting with Rabbi Jeremy Weisblatt, we came up with eleven items, three phrases and eight Hebrew words, that we thought would best define our school.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll share with you how we see these values playing out in our school. We also invite you to share with us examples of these that you see happening in our classrooms and with the children
A time for Gratitude
I apologize for the gap in posting time, the past few months have been quite a journey for our community. We went from Rosh Hashana, to Simchat Torah, celebrating with one another, but missing almost a month of school. As soon as we got back into the groove, the Tree of Life shooting happened and we were turned upside down as we tried to deal with a lot of questions, emotions and feelings. And then suddenly it was November and we had a Thanksgiving program to put together and another week out of classes. Don’t blink, because by the time you finish reading this, it’s probably going to be December and the winter holidays will be upon us.
One topic that always seems to come up around this time of year is gratitude and how can we help our children be grateful and thankful. This is especially timely since many of us celebrate gift giving holidays in the winter time, and children (and adults too) can get caught up in the ‘more stuff’ mindset. How can you help your child during these times and throughout the year?
Here are some resources so that you can read more about gratitude and young children:
10 Ways to Raise a Grateful Kid
8 Ways to Teach Kids Gratitude
Here are some groups and organizations that you can help out with donations:
Foster Love (I only linked their donation page, but they have a bag drive going on through December 15)
Play it Forward Pittsburgh (They are collecting donations now and through December 12. They encourage entire families, including children, to volunteer!)
North Hills Community Outreach (They have a variety of programs and volunteer opportunities)
Each year the start of our preschool year coincides with the celebration of Rosh
Hashanah, the beginning of a ten day period of reflection and introspection that
ends with Yom Kippur, the solemn day of repentance. We want to share with you
some of the ways in which your children will be learning about these holidays.
During these High Holy Days, Jews reflect on the previous year and plan for the
New Year. Rosh Hashanah is referred to as the birthday of the world, and in
preschool we relate Rosh Hashanah to the fresh, new start of school and to the
children’s birthdays which cycle around each year, marking the beginning of a new
age and new experiences for them. One of the symbols of Rosh Hashanah that is
introduced is the shofar or ram’s horn. The children will listen to Rabbi Weisblatt
blow the shofar and will try to imitate the different sounds: loud and soft, long and
short. It is customary during Rosh Hashanah to wish friends and family a sweet or
good new year (“Shana Tovah”). The sweetness of the New Year is celebrated by
eating honey cake and apples dipped in honey. During Rosh Hashanah challah is
baked in a round shape with raisins on top, the round shape symbolizing the cycle
of the year. We will also be sharing these foods in our classrooms.
Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is a day when Jews ask forgiveness for
wrongs committed against God and others. In preschool we talk about saying “I’m
sorry” when we have hurt someone else, made them feel angry or sad. And we
practice good ways to handle our disagreements and make others feel better. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur teach the children that everyone makes mistakes, and that we will always have the opportunity to learn to do better.
A few of the songs the children will be singing:
Dip the Apples (Clementine)
Dip the apples in the honey
Blow the shofar loud and clear
Shana Tovah, Shana Tovah
Have a happy sweet New Year.
Apples and Honey
Apples and honey for Rosh Hashanah
Apples and honey for Rosh Hashanah
For a good, good year,
For a sweet, sweet year.
Apples and honey for Rosh Hashanah.
I Like to Hear the Shofar Blast
I like to hear the shofar blast
Sometimes slow and sometimes fast!
I like to hear the shofar blast
Happy, happy, happy new year!
3. T‘ru-ah ----
Wishing you a happy and sweet new
Sara, Sandy, Shelley, Jennifer,
Jeanne, Morgan, Jill, and Bonnie
Back to School Tips
When my kids and I went for a walk yesterday we crunched through some fallen leaves. The grocery store is filled with mums and pumpkins, the air is getting cooler (or it was for a few days there), and the back to school sales are over...all signs that fall is coming. Along with fall come some very big transitions for children, namely going to school and heading off without mom and dad, some for the first time. It can be a hard time for them, and us parents too. With the first day of classes at Temple Ohav Shalom Center for Early Learning happening in a few days, I wanted to share some strategies to make your child’s (and your) transition a little easier.
We’ve got this, parents! We are excited to get to know you and your children and are looking forward to a great year of learning, exploring, and having fun.