By COLlive reporter
Photos by Itsik Roytman
30 Chabad educators from around the United States and Canada came together on July 23-24 for an exclusive conference presented by the CECE Network in conjunction with the prestigious Bank Street College of Education. Professor Rick Ellis presented on the Reggio philosophy of education.
Mrs. Devora Krasnianski, director of the CECE (Chabad Early Childhood Education) Network sponsored by Dr. Joseph Walder, organized the limited-space, bi-annual conference known as “CECE @ Bank Street.” Participants came from Alabama to Winnipeg, Colorado to Arizona and more, and a great deal of effort was invested to ensure the participants could maximize the return on the two-day event.
Participants visited two highly-ranked Chabad preschools in the area to see how they put the methods to use. Day 1 was hosted by NYC’s Preschool of the Arts (Mrs. Sorie Rotenstreich) and Day 2 was hosted by Kiddie Korner of Brooklyn Heights (Mrs. Shternie Raskin). The conference also featured a dinner farbrengen with veteran educator Mrs. Chanie Baron from Gan Israel of Columbia, MD.
The participants also visited Beginnings, a popular preschool for Manhattan families which practices the Reggio philosophy in their program. The visits inspired many new ideas that the educators will being back to their own programs – from classroom set up, upcycling programs, sound studios and more.
Through a variety of engaging activities and exercises, Professor Ellis showed the participants the nuances of designing a program that meets the needs of each child individually, addressing each child’s personal growth in all areas – physical, social, emotional, creative, spiritual, and cognitive.
Four educators won high quality wood toys from the huge collection of high quality toys and furniture from furnitureforpreschool.com (sponsored by Estee Lieblich).
The conference came to a close with a quick craft exercise as the participants created their own kaleidoscopes. This was significant and symbolic, as when we start working with the children we never know how it will turn out. It will always be beautiful, and each individual will always be different.
Some of the important topics discussed at the conference:
Modeling vs. Guided Discovery – Sometimes it is important to let the children figure out how to do things themselves. And sometimes, when there is only one acceptable way to do the particular things – like tearing paper towels – the teacher should model every tiny step. Children want to know how to do it right and this empowers them.
What is going on is never what it is really about – The action that the child is doing is often not really what it is about. Kids may be throwing little stones – not because they want to hurt each other, but because they are curious about what happens when the pebbles land. Or it might be that they want to see how far they can throw. Or they like the sound of the pebbles dropping. It is the task of the teacher to find out what is really going on and present alternative ways for the child to find the answers.
Children (like everyone) learn best when they have a sense of belonging – People like to be known and feel that they belong to the larger group. To give every child in the classroom that sense of belonging, educators might incorporate news telling into their morning circle, where every child gets a chance to tell about anything that is on their mind. In the morning before the day really begins. And perhaps have another circle time later to learn about other things.
During the farbrengen, Chanie Baron inspired and shared ideas for making the Rebbe the largest stakeholder in a Chabad preschool. Yes, we have to keep all stakeholders (parents, funders, community members, etc.) happy, but ultimately we are a Chabad school and our vision should always be in line with the Rebbe’s vision and teachings.
Chanie Feldman, shlucha to Baltimore, MD, spoke about her experience at the conference: “When you are “out in the field”, big plans don’t materialize without continued nurture and support. The CECE Network and specifically the Conference @ BankStreet is the nurture and support I need to make change at my school and support my staff and colleagues in learning with the children.”
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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