The number seven has extraordinary power in Jewish thought and practice. Because of its deep roots in Jewish tradition, we have chosen the word Sheva, which means seven, as the name of our early childhood education initiative. The seven core elements of Sheva are firmly rooted in the latest research on child development.
The Seven Elements:
Children are natural learners. A Jewish expression of values emphasizes that teachers inspire children to question their world and appreciate multiple perspectives. Based on an image of the child as a competent and capable learner full of potential, teachers and children engage in research as a way of constructing knowledge. When children are agents of their own learning, they build lifelong critical thinking skills and are more deeply invested in the process.
Visionary leaders galvanize a process for creating and living a shared vision for the school. Inspired by the richness of our Jewish expression of values, we work with parents and teachers to create an environment that cultivates a diverse and vibrant community. While all EC directors serve their communities, JCC Chicago EC directors must be visionary leaders focused on nurturing the minds, souls, and hearts of children and their families.
At JCC Chicago, educators view themselves as lifelong learners, constantly engaging in the pursuit of learning opportunities, as prized by our Jewish tradition. The combination of education, experience, and passion enriches educators’, children’s and families’ lives. We listen with the understanding that the relationships between school leadership, colleagues, children, families and community members depend on the richness of each conversation.
Early childhood programs are rich with materials that inform, instruct and engage children. Our vision for the early childhood learning environment suggests an intentional place for children that provokes wonder, curiosity, intellectual engagement and creativity with endless possibilities. Children and families approach the environment with questions. Attention is given to indoor and outdoor classrooms and common spaces to create community, build connections, and encourage and support opportunities for Jewish living.
We view family engagement as essential to building a healthy school community. Every early childhood program includes family events, newsletters, and committees. JCC Chicago EC directors go beyond this to actively listen to and incorporate parents’ perspectives into how we think about teaching and learning. JCC Chicago supports and encourage families’ Jewish journeys.
For thousands of years without the benefit of modern technology, Jews managed to create powerful images and representations of Israel – a place that most Jews had never seen or experienced. A Jewish child was born into a relationship with the “Israel of the imagination,” which was fostered by linking that place to everyday actions and rituals, to significant events in the flow of the year and of life, and to communal myths and memories. Israel thus permeated the lives of Jews, visited and revisited in the mind throughout the course of a lifetime. When such images of Israel were vivid in the hearts and minds of parents, a connection to Israel could be transmitted at an early stage and in a natural way to young children. Now that such images have become less and less a part of most parents’ reality, educators are called upon to make up the difference at the crucial developmental stage of early childhood.