Curriculum at Gan Elohim is carefully planned. The rooms are set up to encourage independence and creativity. The children are encouraged to move freely throughout the room and may use any of the materials that are available. We teach our curriculum in themes or units. We immerse the children into each theme we are studying. For example, when we are involved in the fall unit, nature from the outside is brought in for study and exploration. Snack is a time to sample the fruits and vegetables of the season and for baking. Science and Math concepts are explored with projects such as planting and counting of seeds, studying the different leaves and the reasons they change color, and exploring the nature of seasons and cycles. Jewish content is integrated into the unit with the celebration of Sukkot and the fall chagim (holidays). Children build sukkot (dwellings), learn about Jewish values like hospitality and connect the fall fruits and products to Jewish living. Literacy is promoted by the reading of seasonal stories. Even the housekeeping and block areas are transformed as fall items are introduced into the play. Themes are the tools that help children access the materials and challenge their thinking. Everyday, regardless of the theme, there is a range of activities promoting social, emotional, cognitive, and physical development. There may be theme-oriented additions to the materials provided, and each day the activities continue to promote children's inquiry and discovery in an active, safe, and fun way.
The love, joy, excitement and significance of living Jewishly as well as understanding and celebrating Shabbat and the Jewish Holidays is an important part of our school's curriculum. The core values system of the Jewish tradition Klal Yisrael Aravim Ze B'zeh (all Israel is responsible for one another) and Derek Eretz (respect and good manners) are part of our daily classroom activities. Taking care of our environment by recycling and collecting litter are examples of the mitzvot (good deeds) and values that the children learn by actively doing.
Shabbat is a special time. Every Friday, the classes set apart the activities they were engaged in during the week in order to focus on activities, stories, and songs specifically for Shabbat. All classes gather together in the Sanctuary to sing Shabbat songs with our Cantor Jodi Sufrin. In each class, the children learn to say the blessings over the candles, "wine" and challah. After winter vacation, one child a week in each class is the Shabbat Child and assists their class in leading the blessings and celebrating Shabbat. Parents and family members are invited to school to share this wonderful Shabbat experience on the morning their child is the Shabbat Child.
Jewish holidays are celebrated with songs, stories, cooking and art projects. Special attention is given to linking holiday curriculum throughout the year to making the Jewish curriculum easily understood and relevant to the life of a preschool child. Examples of this are a birthday party for the world at Rosh Hashanah, decorating the Temple's Sukkah for Sukkot, and planting trees for Tu B'Shevat.
All preschool families are welcome at any of the Temple events. Throughout the year, the Temple invites families to celebrate the holidays as a community. Family Education programs through the school offer an adult learning component linked to the children's study. We look forward to seeing our Gan Elohim families at Temple events.