WEST HARTFORD – Several Jewish educators in the greater Hartford area are the recipients of awards presented by the Commission on Jewish Education & Leadership (CJEL). The educators received their awards at the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford’s annual meeting, which was held on Tuesday, Sept. 17 at Temple Beth Israel in West Hartford.
Julie Wilkins and Robin Werner, who teach the three-year-old class at Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Hartford in West Hartford, received the CJEL Innovative Program Award for their long-term class project “Investigation of Trees.”
Wilkins’ and Werner’s innovative project grew out of the Reggio Emilia Approach, which enables teachers to develop a curriculum that is inspired by their students’ interests. In addition, the project was guided by the Connecticut Preschool Framework’s learning objectives and rooted in Jewish tradition. SSDS recently received a grant from the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Hartford to integrate the Reggio Emilia Approach into its early childhood program.
“We observed children walking by the trees, saying, I love you, tree,” said Wilkins and Werner, in explaining the genesis of their project. “[We] then created a variety of experiences for the children to explore trees, including taking nature walks, reading books about different types of trees, doing age-appropriate research, and taking photos of trees. As a culminating event, the students held a fundraiser to purchase two trees. One tree was planted on our school campus; the other was planted in Israel.”
“This award highlights the vision of our new curricular model,” said Early Childhood Director Michelle Fontaine. “Our teachers did a wonderful job integrating student interest, Jewish tradition, and learning benchmarks for three-year-old students into an in-depth unit of study. We’re looking forward to developing new projects in each of our Early Childhood classes again this year.”
The Emanuel Synagogue Religious School in West Hartford received a CJEL award for its Passover Around the World Family Education Program, in which each class in the school researched Passover customs in a different part of the world. They then presented their findings to fellow students and their parents by sharing the foods and customs their assigned country uses at its seder.
Emanuel teacher aides Robert Lipiner, Matthew Rosenthal and Marissa Ward also received awards for their outstanding work in the classroom. The three teens are among more than 40 young peoople who serve as aides in the Conservative synagogue’s religious school every Sunday morning.