When you stand in front of the yellow houses on the cobblestone street of Cooledge Avenue, you see a beautiful flower garden and a fence. Every person who walks through that fence is amazed at what lays beyond the quaint picturesque Morningside homes: the playground and garden of the Intown Jewish Preschool (“IJP”).
IJP is a gem housed in the “Yellow School” serving the Intown Jewish Communities. The playground and gardens is the core of where learning and playing take place at IJP. The School is based on the foundation of the age old Jewish adage, “teach a child according to their way”. Each child is seen as an individual within the community, and it is the INtown community where we find ourselves.
The School has seamlessly embraced the concepts of sustainable intown living: all trips are taken by bus, train or walking (ie to Piedmont Park, Trader Joe’s or botanical gardens), and we maintain our own organic vegetable gardens. As a part of our school’s Reggio Emilia based philosophy, the children learn through doing. Children’s ideas together with their teacher’s make up the emergent curriculum. As a result, children are a part of constructing their own education.
What better way to teach children about the scientific concepts of seeds, growth, photosynthesis, and gardening, than by actually being gardeners- themselves! (We have planted, harvested and eaten onion, potatoes, arugula, butternut squash, berries and more!) And then there is the added benefit of gaining a deeper understanding of the meaning behind the traditional blessing that is made on vegetables “ Blessed are you….who made the fruit that grows from the ground.”
Recycling is another important aspect of our school. As many of the children come from homes that diligently recycle, the children share this information with their friends and together with the teachers are excited to integrate this into the emergent/negotiated curriculum.
At the beginning of the last school year, some of the children learned that bottle caps are not properly recycled. They created a school wide drive to collect the bottle caps and see how we could re-use them. The children collected thousands, in so many shapes and colors. We used them to sort, count and classify for colors and shapes and size. We used them for the wheels of our clay cars, and as eyes for puppets. One of the teachers explored with her 4 and 5 year olds a big project idea that could be done at our annual Yard day. The culmination was the beautiful art work hanging in our magical playground.
What a joy to have the children collect, paint and then drill the most beautiful recycled/re-used art to have in their very own yard. I wonder what the IJP children and teachers will collaboratively come up with this spring. This whole process creates such a wonderful foundation for a life long love of; learning, exploring, creativity and desire to be an upstanding member of the community. As we say at IJP: we are enabling each child to become a Mentsch. That is really what we all want for our children.