LIHA’s early childhood program or the LIHA Gan provides a meaningful and compelling early childhood environment for contemporary Jewish families seeking supportive communities and the highest quality Jewish education for their children. The Gan at LIHA promotes meaningful partnerships between teachers and parents who work together to gain a deeper understanding of each individual child. Relationships are developed between parents, children and staff and each family's challenges and joys are supported and shared.
In a warm, creative and intellectually stimulating environment we deliver a quality early childhood preschool experience for children with the following broad goals:
• To develop a strong sense of Jewish community and belonging among the children, their families and our staff as they participate in the life of our school
• To develop relationships and work closely in partnership with parents in this key developmental period for children and families
• To embark on a journey of Jewish life and Jewish learning
• For the children to develop confidence in themselves as competent individuals and as learners
• To provide an environment in which the key processes of early childhood social and emotional development are nurtured and the building blocks for healthy growth are the focus of concern
• To promote intellectual development and build the foundations necessary for learning readiness across the curriculum: in particular, in the areas of developing curiosity, speech and communication; relating to one another; books and stories; and artistic and other languages of expression
• To facilitate age appropriate physical development and to develop strong fine and gross motor skills
• To provide an environment rich in both the English and Hebrew language as a foundation for successful linguistic development
Children in The LIHA Gan are introduced to the joy and meaning of belonging to a Sephardic Jewish community through their Jewish Studies, which revolve primarily around tefillah, Shabbat, and the yearly cycle of the holidays. When beginning their study of tefillah, learn about the meaning and significance of prayer. As children are introduced to one prayer at a time, they have the opportunity to discuss the words and their meaning, ask questions, learn melodies, and create artwork inspired by that prayer, which is included in their personal siddurim, which they create and use over time as they learn. In this way, children in The Gan at LIHA learn Jewish text authentically, as do the older children in the elementary school, and as have Jews for many thousands of years—they see the actual words, ask questions, engage in discussion with their peers and families, and interpret and create meaning.
Shabbat and holidays are prepared for with care and thought, giving each child the opportunity to experience authentic learning and preparation for each holiday. Children explore Shabbat and holidays with their minds and hands, discussing the meaning of Shabbat and each holiday, learning special brachot and tefillot, and preparing through song, dance, drama, cooking and baking, and art. They are then encouraged to take what they learn at school to their homes for further learning, exploration, and celebration — especially the weekly freshly-made Challah!
Learning in The Gan at LIHA is focused primarily around social-emotional development in which children learn how to both express themselves as individuals and become part of a collective classroom community. Children spend time learning how to speak to one another, listen to another's ideas, work together to solve conflicts as they arise, compromise, understand that friends can have differing ideas, and enjoy one another.
Children are immersed in a language-rich environment where they are reading and read to, and where their stories and thoughts are continuously recorded on paper and displayed on the walls of the classroom. Various learning centers around the room are available in which children play and learn. Artwork, building, dramatic play, and music are central components of the classroom as well. The day is structured carefully to combine time when children meet and learn as a class group, and time when children choose their own activity or experience in the classroom.
Units of study in The Gan at LIHA evolve with the children's interests. For example, the children might visit a synagogue in the community and come back to their classrooms and want to build their own classroom aron (Torah ark).
At LIHA we create all kinds of such experiences and projects that capture their interest. In addition, teachers design projects for the students based on their observations of the students' needs, growth and interest. Children are given time and space to explore these units of study through various lenses — such as stories, songs, field trips, art, dramatic play, building, writing, and critical thinking activities — and their studies are documented through pictures and their own recorded reflections.