A highlight of the Kinus weekend for many Preschool educators among the Shluchos was the “Annual CECE Day of Inspiration, Ideas and Camaraderie” organized by Mrs. Devora Krasnianski of the CECE Network, a project of The Shluchim Office.
Directors and educators from around the world joined together on the Monday after the Kinus (26th of Shvat/January 27th) to learn from each other’s work while gaining chizuk and practical ideas for running their Chabad Preschool.
The event was jam-packed with engaging presentations which left the 100+ participants with many new ideas to consider adding to their programs. As one Shlucha put it: “I wait all year for this – to sit together with fellow colleagues and just talk preschool. I learned so much in these few hours of being with so many incredible directors.”
The annual CECE Network book was distributed at the event – the Best of the CECEmails, culled from the daily CECEmails – providing an easy reference to lots of interesting ideas in areas of inspiration, education, leadership, practical classroom ideas and more.
Rivkah Schack, Educational Director of Lamplighters Yeshivah (Crown Heights), came back to the CECE Day of Inspiration again this year for an extension to practical life in the Jewish classroom. This year her presentation focused on building midos tovos through a combination of positive educational experiences and “impressionistic lessons”–short “show rather than tell” presentations that evoke a series of questions developing the child’s social and emotional critical thinking.
For example, she presented an impressionistic lesson designed by Lamplighters Yeshivah Morah Rivkah Shirah Lipkind, in which children are invited to feel several objects through a layer of velvet without looking. After being given an opportunity to guess what is hiding, the Morah reveals several objects that are especially beautiful–a silver candlestick, a silver-framed photograph of her family, a special piece of Shabbos jewelry, a leather and silver Chitas. The Morah then remarks to the children using very few words that everyday she thanks Hashem for her eyesight (the beracha of pokeach ivrim), because without Hashem’s gift of opening her eyes every day, she would not be able to see the beauty of the mitzvos she does.
Mrs. Schack used a series of video footage of real classrooms and lessons to spark the educator’s interest in creating their own midos lessons.
In a short but information-packed session, Chanie Feldman of Cheder Lubavitch in Baltimore shared many potential ideas for funding resources that might be worth exploring for many different types of programing. One participant commented: “In a time when every dollar really counts, I got so many new ideas of possible funding sources – from different grants, government funding for specific initiatives and more.”
At the Day of Inspiration, Mrs. Devora Krasnianski, the director of the CECE (Chabad Early Childhood Education) Network announced a new focus of Chabad Preschools: The Preschool’s role in engaging the entire community. She threw out the challenge: “Of course, we care for every detail of our students’ experience in our school. Who else might we impact through our school? What else might we be doing to engage the community beyond our current students and their families?”
Several Chabad preschool directors shared programs that their preschools already hosted to engage the larger community. Leah Lang of Gan Camarillo in Camarillo, CA described the Pies of Joy program where the preschool invited the community to bake pies for the seniors and others in the community. The program was a joint collaboration of the Preschool and the Smile on Seniors programs and open to the entire community. Preschool families and many others joined in this project. “The goal of this event is to create an opportunity for the community to be involved in bringing joy to others,” Leah said. Many families were very grateful to Chabad for the opportunity to be involved in chesed.
Rabbi Dovid Hordiner MSEd, co-director of Gan Yeladim ECC in Stamford and founder of Hordiner Consulting, addressed the topic of preschool as a place of community engagement and lifelong learning. He shared insights about three social and educational community programs that Gan Yeladim offers. Fathers First, hosted at rotating homes, engages fathers from the preschool and the community in meaningful discussions about parenting and its roots in Torah. Their Children’s Library will be re-opening soon with educational programming for the preschool and the entire community, and an annual Friday Night Community Shabbaton, in collaboration with The Chabad House programming branch of Chabad of Stamford, brings preschool and community families together to share a meal, build connections, and experience Shabbos through the eyes of children and adults alike. He concluded his talk by encouraging those present to include the voice of children when building a preschool-community connection.
Perel Stroh and Sarah Alevsky of Chabad Upper West Side Manhattan described several of their programs that the Chabad ELC Preschool and Chabad Hebrew School provide for families of their students, alumni and the general community. Lag B’Omer Block parties, community trips, days in the park, Friday Night Dinners, alumni programs, and First Friday – a family-friendly Kabbalat Shabbat program open to all young children in the community.
These presentations sparked lots of idea-sharing and networking around the idea of community engagement. In the next weeks and months, this topic of community engagement will be explored as new programs are developed for preschools to bring their important work to the greater community.
The Chabad Early Childhood Education (CECE) Network was established in 2007 by The Shluchim Office to serve as a central support and resource network for those who run or direct a Chabad preschool. Directed by Mrs. Devora Krasnianski, its goal is to help preschool directors make their local Chabad preschool the preeminent choice within their community. Dr. and Mrs. Joseph Walder of Skokie, IL are the dedicated visionaries who support this critical institution.
The CECE Network provides a framework for deeper thinking about how an excellent preschool can create long-lasting connections with Judaism. Among its many services, the CECE Network provides an online forum, annual and regional conferences, a peer review system, online workshops, conference calls, seminars, articles, and guided online discussion groups.
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