Each day, as I walk into Gan Ami, I marvel at the beauty of our community of young learners. When I open the door into one of our infant rooms, I am nearly speechless from the beauty and gentleness of what happens with educators and our tiniest students.
To many, infant care is merely diapers and bottles. In Jewish early childhood, we’re seeking connections, in relationship with families and educators, all with the child at the center, learning and changing, never forgetting the deep responsibility we all share in nurturing the child as they grow older.
Yet, even within these intimate environments, people still wonder, how can you teach a baby? In truth, it us who learn from these beautiful individuals. Each baby is born with almost 100 billion neurons, nearly double what adults have, each neuron hungry to make connections with knowledge. Every moment, every opportunity is a chance to solidify a new understanding and to retain that neural connection before it is lost from under-use.
These neuron connections grow stronger with touch. Babies actively need to be nurtured, held, caressed as their brains grow and evolve during the first few years of life. Studies have shown that babies who are closely nurtured and physically touched are more likely to have higher memory function, better focus, and the ability to retain what has been learned – all crucial dispositions in the learning journeys of children.
As a Jewish school, we live our values every day and this comes to life in the connections between infants and the educators involved in their care. We believe in B’tzelem Elohim, each individual being created in the image of G-d. Therefore when we first meet an infant and his/her family, we are reminded of the sacredness of this new relationship, the trust being placed within us as a school, and our deep responsibility to view each child as a precious gift who makes their individuality known throughout the many days and years ahead.
This past January, as we were exploring the big ideas surrounding the holiday of Tu B'shvat, our infant educators at Gan Ami’s Linda & Fred Wein Family Center in Mequon wondered how they could explore the ideas of trees with the smallest babies. The children were able to manipulate blocks of different shapes and sizes made from a real tree. Some children touched the pieces to feel the different textures, while others tried stacking the pieces of wood on top of each other. Each exploration was a connection made, a learning moment, a spark lit about Tu B'shvat, the celebration of trees. What will these young learners remember next year? Will it be the feel of the wood, the smell, the texture? We marvel at their capability and wonder what will happen next in their learning journey.
At Gan Ami Early Childhood Education, we serve families in a safe, inclusive, and learning-rich Jewish environment. Our year round program offers deep relationships with learning in a child-focused, creative and loving community, full of Jewish values and experiences.
Registration for the 2018-19 school year is open soon. For more information about our programs, please contact either our Whitefish Bay site at 414-967-8241 or our Mequon site at 262-242-9871.
Stacy Synold Mitchell currently serves as the Director of Early Childhood Education at the Harry and Rose Samson Jewish Community Center in Milwaukee, WI. She leads nearly 90 educators in two schools, serving 300 children in a Jewish journey seeking excellence and shared leadership coupled with strong beliefs about children, families and educators. Stacy is ecstatic to lead a school where she is able merge her passion for serving the Jewish community with her commitment to excellence in early childhood education.