On January 8, 2018, the Boulder JCC was buzzing with the energy of 220 early childhood educators working in ten Jewish ECE centers in the Denver/Boulder community, who had gathered for a day of learning. This day was a culmination of months of dedicated work by the staff of the Jay and Rose Phillips Early Childhood Center at the Boulder JCC, who hosted the event, and JEWISHcolorado Director of ECE, Judi Morosohk, who oversees the work of the Colorado Jewish ECE Initiative. The focus of the Initiative is to support the centers in their continual path of growing quality practices in early education and more seamlessly weaving core Jewish values into the daily life of the programs.
The work of the Initiative is made possible through funding from the Jay and Rose Phillips Family Foundation, Rose Community Foundation, The Daniel’s Fund, JEWISHcolorado, and two anonymous donors. The JCC Association also supported this year’s day of learning by funding facilitator Veronica Maravankin from the Mandel JCC in Florida to lead the Leadership Track.
In the spirit of embracing the Jewish value of Hachnasat Orchim/Welcoming guests, the conference was titled “Open Doors. Open Hearts. Open Minds” and opened with a video of the BJCC children’s ideas of how to make people feel welcome in their school. The video also modeled what can happen when children are viewed as capable and their minds are engaged in meaningfully ways. To view the short video go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QEEtfsv5rx8.
Thanks to the generosity of Rose Community Foundation for printing copies for every educator in the schools, all attendees received a copy of the Standards of Excellence self-assessment rubric for gauging quality in Jewish ECE and planning for continual school growth.
Susie Valdez, BJCC Senior Director of Early Childhood Education, Youth, & Family welcomed everyone with hopes that the thinking and learning would reach beyond the day, while educator Caroline Saliman inspired everyone with Jewish wisdom embedded in the story of the Black and the White Fire, which encourages people to read between the lines and construct their own meaning.
This was the first time that the annual Jewish ECE Conference has been hosted in Boulder. To honor this “first” Judi Morosohk and Julie Shafer, former co-directors of the Boulder JCC Preschool led everyone in a Shehecheyanu blessing, expressing gratitude for being together for this moment in time. This was also the first time that nearly every learning session was led by ECE educators from the hosting school. The day of learning was dedicated to the idea of educators learning with and from each other with all sessions focused on translating theory into everyday action in the classroom.
Fourteen educators from the Phillips ECC at the Boulder JCC led learning sessions on topics ranging from integrating STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics), to outdoor learning and connecting children with nature, to engaging families, and supporting long term inquiry.
Touring through the ECC provided an opportunity for educators to explore and be inspired by the learning environments at the school, read examples of documentation that make learning visible and engage in dialogue with educators from the school and other colleagues.
Children of the BJCC ECC created thank you cards and sweet-smelling spice bags for participants that were distributed at the conference. Participants were then asked to create a Havdalah spice bag for a child in the program and write a personal message about their experience in their school.
Feedback regarding the day was overwhelmingly positive.
Several participants summarized the feeling that permeated the day, “Awesome! Such an essential day for our field. I feel refreshed, inspired, and ready to get back to the classroom.” “Fabulous! Great to see educators presenting and sharing the important work happening in their classrooms.” “A wonderful environment that embodies the ‘Open Doors. Open Hearts. Open Minds.’ mantra.”
And finally, the words on everyone’s mouths,
“Now I know why we came to Boulder for the 1st time! Amazing and beautiful!!!”