Home Agencies The Weinstein JCC Reimagined Preschool: Where learning is a Journey of Discovery!

The Weinstein JCC Reimagined Preschool: Where learning is a Journey of Discovery!

A classroom investigates the Preschool’s bird habitat as part of the hands-on learning approach, where children are given opportunities for exploration, discovery and experimentation.


Dora L. Lewis Family and Child Development Center Accepting Applications for the 2021-2022 School Year for Preschoolers, ages 2-5 years old! 

After a successful re-opening last summer and this school year, and with lots of thoughtful planning, the Early Childhood Department of the Weinstein JCC will begin the new school year on Sept. 8.

While continuing to adhere to COVID-19 health and safety protocols, the Preschool plans to extend the full day Preschool operating hours in the fall to 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. as well as offering a part-day Preschool program from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.; Monday – Friday for families looking for a shorter day option!

Each class will have children of the same ages together (half-day and full day), with the same teachers every day.

Applications can currently be accessed from the Early Childhood page at weinsteinjcc.org and will be open for all new families to register for Preschool beginning Tuesday, March 30.  Current families and children enrolled in Camp Ganim this summer can register now. A timeline for accepting applications is also available online.

Reggio Emilia Approach

The preschool is inspired by the Reggio Emilia Approach, in which the basic premise is a shared and deep belief in the strength of children’s amazing potential for growth and learning, exploring, and building relationships with their peers, teachers, and environment.

This child-centered philosophy provides the creative freedom for children to fully represent their ideas, as well as helping children to become self-directed and lifelong learners. Teachers encourage exploration and learning which builds on the child’s current knowledge, abilities and interests.

Natural World

An important aspect of the program is developing children’s deeper connections with the natural world along with plenty of time given to playing and exploring outdoors daily and in all kinds of weather.

The beautiful outdoor play-spaces at the Weinstein JCC are intentionally designed for children to easily interact with nature while building skills. A meandering tricycle path throughout the playgrounds, sand and dirt digging areas, climbing/slide structures, and water play features add to the outdoor experience.

The Weinstein JCC preschool playgrounds are certified Nature Explore Outdoor Classrooms.

Staff work mindfully to create and sustain wonder-filled natural outdoor classrooms for children that support imagination, curiosity, creativity, and risk-taking, while providing children opportunities to play with open-ended natural materials.

Hands-on Activities

The preschool’s Edible Schoolyard, vegetable, herb, flower, butterfly gardens and bird habitat are lovingly tended by the children throughout the year.

Preschool Nature Educator Patsy Glazer, and Garden Specialist Cat Cowan collaborate with the Early Childhood faculty to provide hands-on activities and opportunities that encourage children’s knowledge of and confidence in the natural world.  An important goal is to support children’s healthy development while inspiring the next generation of environmental stewards through the Jewish value of Tikkun Olam-repairing the world.

The Weinstein JCC Preschool Program provides award-winning outdoor play spaces that cultivate imaginations and pretend play and offer hands-on experiences with sand, mud, water, dirt and flower and vegetable gardens.

The Preschool’s focus on the value of nature education and increasing time outdoors during the pandemic has proven very beneficial for the children and educators. It has been a smooth transition to spend most of each day outside in the many beautiful and intriguing areas of the Weinstein JCC property beyond the awe-inspiring Preschool playgrounds and gardens.

The children spend quality time exploring the many areas that offer changes in scenery and physical challenges.

From tree climbing, to rolling down hills, to designing and building bridges in the stream, to observing and noticing changes of the trees through the seasons, the children are natural investigators and collaborators in their unique play and learning opportunities.

Outdoors the children and teachers are free to breathe, play, take risks, challenge themselves, problem solve together, and most importantly simply appreciate what nature has to offer!

Smaller Groups

A unique silver lining in these challenging times of COVID-19 are the many ways the Weinstein JCC early childhood professionals have noticed changes and growth in the children. In smaller group/pods, with the same teachers, less transitions, and with spending more time outdoors the children have gained: resilience, independence, self-esteem, and confidence.

Staff also see the children developing deeper relationships with classmates and teachers, empathy, mutual respect, as well as gaining skill development and readiness. They notice and reflect on these areas of growth and competencies and move forward in ways that will continue to enrich our children and families!

Ruth A. Wilson, author of “The Wonders of Nature: Honoring Children’s Ways of Knowing,” beautifully shares, “Early experiences with the natural world have been positively linked to the sense of wonder. This way of knowing, if recognized and honored, can serve as a life-long source of joy and enrichment, as well as an impetus or motivation, for further learning.” 

The Preschool connects children and families to Jewish ethics and values such as: responsibility, dignity, kindness, community, tradition, and respect.

Judaic Specialist

Judaic Specialist Dawn Kowal visits every classroom, collaborates with every teacher, knows every child, and adds to the fun of Jewish learning, traditions and celebrations in the Preschool!

Dedicated, experienced, and professional educators provide opportunities for growth and development in a warm and loving environment where children are accepted, honored and loved.

Preschool teacher Jessie Skiles and Judaic Specialist Dawn Kowal share songs and tell stories in the Sukkah on the Neil November Plaza constructed for Sukkot each year.

Developing foundational skills, building social connections with peers, as well as providing opportunities for joy, wonder, gratitude, and exploration are woven throughout each child’s day. Parents and families are very important to the success of the Preschool program and vision. Building strong partnerships between home and preschool are integral components to creating an environment that celebrates each child’s uniqueness, strengths, abilities, and character.

The following vision statement, created in partnership with faculty and parents, guides the Early Childhood Department on their path to excellence: Guided by Jewish values, we aspire to create a joyful community where we honor the sacred relationships among children, educators, families and the natural world.  In this community, we are all deserving of love and respect. We all have amazing potential for growth and learning. We connect to our sense of wonder and gratitude through the enduring relationships cultivated here. * May we inspire one another to make the world better for this and future generations.

Come and be part of an innovative and inclusive early childhood experience that celebrates learning and the uniqueness of every child in a warm and nurturing Jewish environment!

Please contact Early Childhood Director Donna Peters at (804) 545-8617 or dpeters@weinsteinjcc.org for more information.

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