This week we opened the “Panda Art Museum” at the Bertha Alyce Early Childhood Center. Dozens of parents, grandparents and classmates attended. The museum showcases famous artists who pique the interest of four year old children which include Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Marc Chagall, David Garibaldi and Vincent Van Gogh. The artists represent different styles of art, exposing the children to different materials, vocabulary, creativity and Jewish values.
The project began as an “empty canvas project” meaning each week the canvas came out and the children applied texture and color. The canvas evolved through the twelve weeks and inspired the children to inquire and want more. The children not only experienced painting, but also collage, sculpture and engraving.
This project involved teaching the kids about the Jewish value of Kavod/respect. At the start of the project they were asked to define a museum. Kristopher Melendez responded, “Dinosaur head.” When asked the same question twelve weeks later, the same child said, “Where people look at dinosaur bones; we have to be quiet and don’t touch. Music is there; sculptures, paintings are all there.”
The twelve weeks emergent-based project concluded with a wine and cheese reception for the children’s families.
“Elyse learned about several different artists and their style of expression through art. She loved working with different mediums,” said Deanna Dyer, mother of a preschooler. “I was thrilled to see that they did sculptures in addition to paintings. It was a fantastic topic for the children to study for several weeks. The pride that the students showed was echoed by their proud parents and teachers too. The museum is an amazing installation that would rival some of the art galleries I’ve visited.”
This project was one of many that have been permeating the ERJCC Bertha Alyce Center classrooms this year. In adopting the Reggio inspired approach to learning, the curriculum is emergent, child-guided, and inquiry based, as well as based on the principles of respect, responsibility and community.
Another project in the class was a pirate project. A few children talking at lunchtime led to a wonderful eight week topic where the children learned about ships and their construction, floating/sinking, marine life, navigation/directions, mapping skills, treasure and jewels and parrots as pets. This topic covered the Jewish values of Shmirat Ha’guf/taking care of oneself, Tzar Ba’alay Chaim/taking care of animals, Achdut/working together and more reinforcement of Derech Eretz/proper behavior. This project culminated with a treasure hunt on our grounds; the children armed with their treasure map and their parents found the buried treasure and enjoyed their Pirate Booty snack.
In another class, construction took hold and the children could not build enough. They worked with real tools; learned about construction vehicles, architecture, and engineering. They tested out their skills by building a large class castle created from recyclables and paint. They learned the Hebrew terminology involved in construction and about the Jewish value of Tikun Olam/repairing the world. They are currently constructing the pyramids of Egypt in conjunction with Passover.
On the holiday of Tu B’shvat/the Jewish Arbor Day, recycling blossomed. The children noticed the recycling symbol all over the school and began to inquire about it. They have since learned of the importance of recycling, and how to “reduce, reuse and recycle” and about Tikun Olam/repairing the world. They have created a classroom-recycling box where they recycle containers from their lunch boxes and their classroom. They use these recycled materials to create their own structures, as well as many different types of structures associated with the holidays of Purim and Passover.
“Parents in our school see the benefits their children are reaping through play and inquiry in all areas of the curriculum,” said Alana Shepetofsky, Judaics Director and Curriculum Coordinator at the Bertha Alyce Center. “The results are truly remarkable.”