Congregation Beth Shalom ECC provides quality care for young children in a safe and nurturing environment, rich with Jewish content. We are licensed through Washington State’s Department of Early Learning. The ECC uses pieces from several theories when designing curriculum. Our curriculum is emergent, child centered, and creative. We respect children as capable people who are able to make choices in their own learning. We believe that children learn best through play and hands on experiences. We design the environment to provoke children’s natural curiosity and interest in learning. We maintain low staff ratios, so teachers are readily available to provide support to children’s experience by asking open ended questions, facilitating problem solving and providing opportunities to expand or extend projects. Some resources we use include: The Creative Curriculum, The Project Approach, and The Power of Play.
Our program is set up to encourage free play, social interaction, and creativity. As a developmentally appropriate program, we encourage learning through child-initiated activities and open-ended materials. Through all different kinds of play, children are learning. As adults, we sometimes view learning as something that has to produce direct results or outcomes. For children, learning is a process rather than a product and the results are more discreet. Many activities have learning outcomes that are not obvious at first, but will appear again and again throughout the child’s life. Some examples of learning through play include:
Block Play: Through block play, children learn the sizes, shapes, and properties of materials. They learn about spatial relations and how things fit together. Cause and effect is displayed through the natural process of stacking and knocking down. Children can work together to encourage each other and experience teamwork first hand.
Dramatic Play: Children learn social skills in safe ways through imitation and exploration. They are able to experiment with emotions and get reactions from others. They learn about their world and can act out experiences that they either have had or may have in the future. We try to include aspects of each child’s home life into our dramatic play areas. We include props from Jewish life as well as every day kitchen materials and much more.
Art/Drawing/Writing: Children learn about using space and color. They are able to express themselves through different elements. They learn cause and effect in the ways that the supplies change as their work progresses. We provide materials to help children gain fine motor control and practice “writing” at whatever level they may be at.
Math: Young children learn math concepts from hands on activities. We provide puzzles, manipulatives, and games to encourage math skills. We also do occasional cooking projects which provide a great opportunity for children to learn math and science concepts through measuring, mixing and creating.
Science and Sensory: We have a sensory tub in each classroom which includes different materials for children to explore. It might be beans, rice, sand, clay, etc. We provide natural materials for children to explore and investigate. We set up activities that allow children to learn science concepts in their own way at their own pace.
Books and Stories: Our classrooms are filled with books for children to read. We have picture books, story books, Hebrew books, books about Jewish life, values and culture, rhyming books, song books, classroom-made books, and more. Teachers read to children every day. We give children an opportunity to tell their stories and we take dictation. We provide many positive experiences with books and stories to set children up for a life-long love of reading.
All by Myself Spot: Each of our classrooms has a space where children can go to have some alone space if and when they choose. These spaces are comfortable and include activities that are often calming for children including small squeezable toys and books. These spaces help teach children to regulate themselves and recharge when necessary.
Music: We have musical instruments that children are free to experiment with. We sing songs and provide opportunities to listen to music each day. Music gives children an opportunity to express themselves and is a wonderful way for children to learn. We sing Hebrew songs and prayers to give children a wonderful sense of Jewish Culture.
Outside Time: We provide regular opportunities for the children to play outside. The children will take walks around the neighborhood and “field trips” to the nearby public library and parks. Children go outside every day in order to breathe fresh air, run, jump, climb and increase their understanding of the environment.
Our goal is to provide a rich environment that will help children grow into capable, confident individuals with a life-long love of learning.