On December 1, more than 120 early childhood educators from across New York City gathered together at Stephen Wise Free Synagogue’s Early Childhood Center (ECC) as part of a special symposium focused on “Making the Stories of Learning Visible.”
The symposium was sponsored by Teaching Beyond the Square, a nonprofit that works to improve the quality of early childhood education for all children.
“It is a great honor to share our knowledge with other educators,” said Lori Schneider, director of the Early Childhood Center. “We are proud to continue our tradition of inviting fellow educators to observe how we integrate Jewish and Reggio Emilia ideas into our philosophy.”
A panel discussion illuminated how the ECC fosters students’ sense of inquiry throughout the many spaces they inhabit. Panelists and ECC teachers Allie Baylson, Melissa Hume, Liz McBride, Elaine Perez- Rojas, and Jenna Samotin — as well as Miriam Kalmar, assistant director of the ECC, and Lori Schneider, director — shared recent projects, including their 2016 Hallwayscapes initiative, the installation of interactive experiences in the main hallway of the ECC. Thoughtfully prepared materials such as film, water, and photography encouraged children to experiment and explore.
After the panel discussion, participants shared takeaways and best practices about documentation — a critical component of the ECC’s Reggio Emilia-inspired philosophy — in small groups before touring ECC classrooms and play areas.
“Having visited the ECC more than 20
years ago, it was exciting to observe the incredible growth, commitment,
and passion the school has created using the Reggio-inspired approach,”
said Susan Hershman, an early childhood development specialist who
participated in the conference.
Founded in 1949, the Early Childhood Center at Stephen Wise Free Synagogue provides children ages 18 months through 5 years with a nurturing environment infused with Jewish values and inspired by the world-renowned schools of Reggio Emilia, Italy, which value children as capable, strong, and rich with wonder and knowledge.
Photo of 2016 Early Childhood Center Hallwayscapes installation