Welcome to the May Family Nursery School!
Early childhood is the gateway to learning, and here at Central Synagogue, we are committed to providing young children with a creative learning environment rich in hands-on experiences that make them love coming to school. During their time here, all children are recognized as unique individuals with varied interests, personality traits, and strengths. We give them the freedom to be creative and encourage them to wonder, explore, experiment, and problem solve with confidence. Our goal is to nurture the development of the intellectual, social and emotional, language and physical skills that form a strong foundation for each child as an eager and curious learner throughout his or her life, and shorter term, ensure a successful transition to kindergarten.
Interwoven throughout our school year are rich Jewish learning experiences and compelling celebratory times that help children begin to develop a sense of connection to Judaism. They interact with the clergy, explore ritual objects, celebrate holidays and learn about Jewish values that are meaningful in their lives, in particular, tikkun olam (fixing the world), tzedakah (righteousness, often referred to as charity), hachnasat orchim (welcoming guests), and g'milut chasadim (acts of kindness).
One of my deepest pleasures is partnering with parents during this early and tender time in their children's lives. Whether parents wish to meet to discuss their child's transition into our school, social interactions with their classmates, individual learning styles, or plans for school after the nursery school years—the New York City exmissions process—I look forward to engaging with them and providing them with support, as together, we get to know their children as students and seek answers to their questions and concerns.
I invite you to learn more about our school and all that it has to offer your children and family as an integral part of the warm, innovative, and welcoming Central Synagogue community.
Early Childhood Director
At the May Family Nursery School at Central Synagogue, our goal is to provide each child with a strong foundation for personal fulfillment, academic success and connection to Judaism throughout their lives. In every class and at every age, our approach to early childhood education centers on hands-on, experiential learning that sparks curiosity, engages creativity, and invites children to think imaginatively and to wonder. As they explore, they begin to think about the world outside of their classroom and to seek their own solutions to the questions and challenges that arise through their work and play during the school day.
In a warm, welcoming, and stimulating environment that values and recognizes the uniqueness and individuality of each child, children's awareness of the world grows larger as they play, engage with interesting and developmentally-appropriate materials, form friendships, learn how to collaborate with others, and begin the process of becoming lifelong learners with a growing sense of self-confidence, responsibility and independence.
Through a focus on emergent curriculum inspired by Reggio Emilia and other child-centered philosophies of educating young children, the interests of the children themselves become a starting point for in-depth, integrated exploration across all academic disciplines. From language, math, science, and social studies to music and art, children make connections and develop their own understanding with the guidance of teachers who are attuned to each child's learning style and know how to help extend their knowledge, as they ponder, explore and problem solve. Throughout each child's time in our school, we work closely with parents, communicating and partnering with them to help each child reach his or her full potential as happy, relaxed, and confident learners with a lasting sense of Jewish connection.
There are eight classes in our school for children from two to five years old, with programs ranging from young Twos to Pre-Kindergarten. Our school day begins at 8:45 am in all classes, with staggered dismissal times based on the ages of the children. We also have a class for children who start the school year slightly under the age of two, Toddlers Turning Two, with a start time of 9:00 am. During the 2020-21 school year, arrival and dismissal times will be staggered slightly to accommodate daily COVID-19 health screenings and proper social distancing.
TODDLERS TURNING TWO
Toddlers Turning Two/Ananas (Turning Twos)
Tuesday and Thursday, 9:00-11:00 am September to December; dismissal is at 11:30 am from January to June (children must be accompanied by a trusted grown-up from September to December; separation begins in January)
Gold Room/Rimonim (Twos)
Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, 8:45-11:45 am
Purple Room/Anavim (Twos)
Monday, Wednesday, Friday, 8:45 am-12:00 pm (September to December)
Monday to Friday, 8:45 am-12:00 pm (beginning in January)
Yellow Room/Bananot (Twos) Monday to Friday, 8:45 am-12:00 pm
Monday to Thursday, 8:45 am-1:00 pm; Friday, 8:45 am-12:15 pm (early dismissal for Shabbat)
Monday to Thursday, 8:45 am-2:30 pm; Friday, 8:45 am-12:15 pm (early dismissal for Shabbat)
In addition to our warm and inviting classrooms, we have two beautiful outdoor play areas for our children, the Rooftop Playground and the Second Floor Terrace and Garden, as well as the Barbara Brooks Children’s Library, an indoor Movement Room, and Beir Chapel, where we gather to celebrate Shabbat as a school community at our weekly Shabbat B’yachad, Shabbat Together. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we will continue to celebrate Shabbat with a member of the Central Synagogue clergy together as a school virtually.
Every week, all of our classes attend Music and Movement classes. Our gifted music educator, Shira Kobren Wasserman plays the guitar and teach children songs, rhymes, and finger plays that complement the curriculum in each class throughout the year, as well as songs and stories about each of the Jewish holidays that we study and celebrate. Shira also leads Shabbat Central services for families with young children which are part of Central Synagogue's Family Engagement programming. Our classes also enjoy Movement with our movement teacher, whose enthusiasm inspires our children to move in joyful and creative ways and to develop age-appropriate awareness, coordination, and control over their bodies. Even during this year when our special classes will be held virtually due to the pandemic, music and movement are joyfully woven into every aspect of our program.
Professor Apple, our science teacher, enriches the science experience for our Four's to Five's classes with a weekly visit. With Professor Apple as their guide, children in each class learn about the many ways that one can be a scientist, with highlights that include making erupting volcanoes, digging in the dirt for worms, studying rocks and learning how birds fly. Due to COVID-19, science has been temporarily suspended.
Pre-literacy is an integral part of our children’s experience in school every day. Our library program plays an important role in instilling a love for reading in our children, introducing them to a wide range of genres and developing their pre-literacy skills. Drawing from the wide-ranging book collection in the Barbara Brooks Children's Library, we read wonderful books to the children and collaborate with the teachers to integrate the library experience with each classroom's curriculum. Each class has library every week to hear a story, after which the children look at books selected for them by our librarian based on their interests and the current curriculum in each class, and choose a book to check out. It is a cozy and inviting place to visit and settle in with a good book to read! Due to COVID-19, while library is being held every week, visits to the library have been temporarily suspended.
Building with wooden unit blocks is a pivotal part of the preschool experience. When children build with blocks, they learn across a range of critically important subjects: language, literacy, social studies, math, and science, as well as develop skills that positively impact their approach to learning throughout their lives: collaboration with others, determination and focus, experimentation, problem solving, and resilience. Throughout our school, in classrooms, outdoor spaces and indoor playrooms, children build with unit blocks, large and toddler-sized wooden hollow blocks, and Imagination Playground blocks.
The children in our school have the opportunity to create and sustain “learning gardens” on both our Second Floor Terrace and Roof. Throughout the year, children plant, tend, harvest, collect and sow seeds, cook, compost, and discover the connections that exist among Jewish holidays, values, and the life cycle of living things. The community gardens that all of the children in the school create and tend provoke rich opportunities for “wondering” about the natural world and provide them with a hands-on connection to tikkun olam, as the children learn about one way in which they personally can care for the world by growing their own food and “eating local.”
Central Synagogue's commitment to Jewish learning and values permeates daily life in the Nursery School, where Jewish learning and exploration are a focal point of our curriculum and our children's experiences, with enrichment provided by Amy Martin, our Judaic Specialist. Our approach is three-fold. Children learn about Shabbat, the cycle of Jewish holidays throughout the year, and Jewish values, with particular emphasis on tikkun olam, tzedakah, hachnasat orchim, and g'milut chasadim. As children learn about these and other Jewish values, they come to understand that even at their young age, they can make a difference through their words and actions, a dawning awareness that they have the power to create change—from repurposing and recycling materials, to feeding the hungry and homeless, to embracing and embodying the concepts central to racial equality.
Every Friday, the entire school comes together in Beir Chapel for Shabbat B'yachad (Shabbat Together). Led by a member of our clergy, the children welcome Shabbat as a community with song, prayer, and blessings, preceded or followed by individual celebrations in each classroom. Parents take turns coming to school to join in their children's classroom Shabbat observance, and accompany their children to Shabbat B'yachad on that day as well, a truly special Shabbat experience for parents and children alike. Due to COVID-19, parents will continue to make visits for their child's special Shabbat in each class virtually, and Shabbat B'yachad will also be held virtually.
Our children learn about Jewish holidays through meaningful interactive experiences that help bring them to life. Children learn the stories of the holidays and then can be found reenacting the stories in the dramatic play area, in the block corner, or even at the sand table. Books are read, holiday songs are sung, ritual objects and symbols of the holidays are explored and discussed. And of course, cooking is done in preparation for in-school celebrations. All of our teachers thoughtfully teach the children in their classes about their Jewish life in a dynamic, exciting, and authentic way.
We celebrate with a Chanukah party in each class, Seders for both Tu BiShvat (a celebration of trees in Judaism) and Passover, a Purim parade, and a special celebration for Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel's Independence Day, including building our very own version of the Western Wall.
Jewish values are at the core of our program, and it is our goal to help children understand them in tangible ways.
Children and families in the Nursery School participate in Central Synagogue's tzedakah sandwich-making initiative for the homeless, taking part in the monthly rotation of volunteers within the synagogue who make and bag sandwiches.
Each class also collects money for tzedakah throughout the year. At the end of the school year, the children in each class, with the help of their teachers, choose organizations that hold meaning for them to which they donate the money that they have collected.
Children learn the meaning of tikkun olam through an environmentally-sensitive approach to the materials we use for creative expression. Recyclable materials and found objects of all kinds are collected by teachers, parents, children and Central Synagogue staff members for the children to use in their projects, sparking open-ended exploration and resulting in truly unique creations. As children engage in the process of collecting, they become aware of just how much gets thrown away, and they begin to realize how effective repurposing materials can be in protecting and caring for our world.
Children also learn about taking care of the environment through our nature and gardening program, in which children plant seeds—often vegetables—and provide them with nourishment and care until they are ready to be harvested and eaten.
Throughout the year, when guests visit our classrooms, children learn the importance of hachnasat orchim, welcoming guests, as they graciously welcome parents who come for Shabbat; clergy members who visit to tell a story, sing and play with the children, or celebrate a special holiday; and a wonderful group of synagogue members and staff who participate in our Nursery School reading program, volunteering their time to read aloud to the children in all of our Nursery School classes.
And of course, every day in every classroom we encourage children to treat their classmates and others with kindness, as they learn the meaning of g'milut chasadim, acts of loving kindness.
Through our rich Jewish curriculum, children connect with and embrace Judaism in a way that is joyful and meaningful to them.
Due to COVID-19, children's participation in the sandwich-making program is suspended. We are also temporarily suspending in-person guest visits to the classrooms.
We have a very active Parents Association (PA), comprised of a number of parent volunteers who give generously of their time and work tirelessly on behalf of our school. Led by two co-chairs each year and assisted by Class Parents and a number of committee chairs, the PA plans and sponsors our annual Book Fair and annual Nursery School Benefit, as well as collaborates with the NS staff on the publication of a school newsletter; assists in the admissions process as welcome ambassadors; and partners with the Nursery School to sponsor a series of talks for parents, the CentralChat series, just to name a few of their many initiatives throughout the year. Becoming involved in the PA is a great way to form friendships within the nursery school community and also to spend time in the school and get to know the school better—maybe even to get a glimpse of your children during their school day.
Central Synagogue sponsors CentralChat “Coffee Talks,” a number of workshops for parents throughout the year led by the Nursery School Director, members of the clergy, the Director of Youth and Family Education, Central Synagogue staff, and special consultants to our school. At these informal discussion groups, specific topics are covered and parents are invited to bring questions. Topics include the exmissions process, Jewish parenting issues, and social and emotional, physical, and speech and language growth and development with the Parents Association. Due to COVID-19, all parent "Coffee Talks" and discussions will be held virtually.
Our Nursery School is staffed by a group of highly dedicated and creative educators who are passionate about early childhood and bring a wide range of experience, interests and special talents to their work with young children. The majority of our teachers have master's degrees in early childhood education or are working toward their master’s. At least one teacher in every room is New York State certified and has their master’s degree. Ongoing professional development is a priority for our school. Every year, our teachers participate in a number of workshops and conferences, as we strive always to grow as a faculty, bring cutting edge developments in early childhood education to our classrooms, and model a love of learning and willingness to try new things for our children.
In addition to our loving, gifted, and deeply committed classroom teachers, we are fortunate to have the expertise of specialist teachers and consultants on our staff, including our music teacher and librarian, a Judaic specialist, movement teacher, the science teacher for our oldest classes, and Director of Developmental Learning, all of whom are valuable resources for both teachers and parents.
Exmissions, the planning process for children when the time approaches for them to leave our school and go on to kindergarten, is a major priority for our school. During their time at Central, the Nursery School Director gets to know each child and family well, so that when the time comes to start planning the next steps in each child’s education, sound recommendations can be made. To begin the new exmissions season, the Director holds an exmissions meeting each year in mid-March, followed by individual meetings with parents that continue into the following fall and winter until placement decisions are made. Throughout the entire process, the Director works closely with parents, advising them, supporting them, and helping them make decisions that are good ones for their children.
Applications for the 2021/2022 school year are now available.
This year, because of the Coronavirus, our admissions process is completely virtual. Every year, we look forward to welcoming families to come to our school, visit our classrooms, and meet our teachers, members of the clergy, and current parents. While this won’t happen in person this year, our invitation for you to get to know us remains the same.
We hope that you enjoy watching the video describing our school and synagogue community if you haven’t already, and will join us at a virtual admissions open house for prospective parents with representatives from our school where you will get to hear from us about our educational philosophy, synagogue community, parent involvement, and next steps in the admissions process. We also will answer your questions, ranging from curriculum to separation, Jewish values and celebration, the exmissions process, toilet training, and everything in between!
Our school has classes for children from two to five years old. Children must turn two by September 15, 2021 in order to be eligible for admission to the Nursery School for the 2021/2022 school year. For younger children who just miss the age cut-off for enrollment in the Nursery School, we offer Toddlers Turning Two, a class for children who will be 21 to 24 months in September 2021. Children enrolled in this class attend in the fall with a parent or other trusted grownup. Separation begins in January 2022 when they have turned two. It is not necessary to re-apply to the Nursery School for the 2022/2023 school year.
We look forward to meeting you!
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