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Making Mensches at Preschool

 In Building

On February 15, 130 Jewish preschool educators convened in Lafayette’s Temple Isaiah for the annual East Bay Early Childhood Education Conference. Participants spent the day engaged in workshops and discussions centered on the conference’s theme of Making Mensches: Jewish Values and Social Emotional Learning. Everything from modern day parenting trends and their ramifications on children, to creative, hands-on explorations into the weekly Torah portion were explored.

“I really enjoyed the edible Judaism workshop because for me, the sensory experience of children is very important,” said Katherina Nopuente, a teacher at Gan Mah Tov Preschool. The Edible Judaism workshop introduced the over 100 plants mentioned by name in the Torah. The idea of “edible Judaism” can serve as an educational model to be easily adapted to different settings, and can be a tasty lesson with preschool children.

In a different session, educators delve into the idea of “pedagogical provocations” and how to use these open-ended activities to inspire Jewish values in young children. These provocations are designed to stimulate ideas, create excitement, foster learning, and promote initiative. “My co-teacher and I have been thinking about getting away from big projects,” said Mark Laudate of Gan Mah Tov. “That [pedagogical provocations] session was a good reminder that sometimes you can put out things and the kids can show you where to go.” In this workshop, participants were challenged to interact with pedagogical provocations. They spent time individually building with blocks and then building in a larger group as well. As the session concluded Mark added, “one big take-away for me was when we joined all our buildings into one large community. That is certainly something I can bring back with me to work. We’re always thinking about kehillah, about community, but you can also tie that in with castle building, and tie that in with Purim as well! It can start out as a Shushan castle but where does it go after that?”

Jewish Federation and Foundation of the East Bay proudly host the annual East Bay Early Childhood Education Conference. It is the largest gathering of East Bay Jewish early childhood educators with 12 Jewish preschools represented. The conference provides an opportunity to explore fresh and unique ideas in Jewish preschool education, and creates a community for educators to network, share best practices, and bond.

Thank you to everyone who made this conference possible including all our presenters: Beatrice Balfour, Jodi Gladstone, Rabbi Bill Kaplan, Adina Polen, Bathea James, Emma Schnur, and Karen Llamas. And a special thank you to the early childhood educators that work at our East Bay preschools to nurture the next generation of Jewish leaders.

Are you interested in learning more about how Federation and Foundation support early learners? Read more about Sprout which helps families with young children connect to Jewish life. To help continue programs like this, please make a donation to Federation’s Community Campaign, which supports Jewish life in the East Bay, Israel, and around the world.

 

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