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Magen Hagan - Judaic Accreditation

Magen HaGan (מגן הגן -  “The Garden’s Shield”) is the BJE's initiative to set goals and standards for the Judaic content and professional development of our area's Jewish pre-schools. Through the process, the Bureau assists nursery schools to assess their current programs, chart a course to meet recognized criteria for excellence, and celebrate their achievements when they meet those goals. All pre-schools must meet secular standards; now our pre-schools can opt to strive towards achieving standards of Jewish educational philosophy and practice.  The BJE Early Childhood Directors' Council helped create these certification standards through which the BJE will enable all of our accredited preschools to become eligible for participation in the State's planned "Early Education for All" program.

During the early childhood years, family involvement is high and significant formative cognitive and emotional development take place. As more young children have richer early Jewish experiences with BJE input and accreditation, therir parents will be more engaged, congregational and day schools will develop more challenging primary grade programs, and our entire community will benefit.

Since 2000, 11 early childhood programs (3 new ones this year!) have met the requirements for the prestigious BJE Magen HaGan Judaic accreditation. Of the 11 fully certified centers, 6 preschools have already completed their first 5 years of Magen HaGan and have been re-accredited. Another 3 pre-schools are actively involved in the pre-accreditation process. Our goal is to accredit all 32 preschools (with more than 2000 children) by 2013 (or sooner with sufficient staff resources). This will create a compelling Jewish education foundation for our children and foster a lifelong love for Jewish learning in our families and staffs.

We are pleased to announce the 5768/2008 Magen HaGan Accreditation of Billy Dalwin Pre-School, Temple Emunah, Lexington; Temple Beth Avodah Nursery School, Newton; Temple Shalom, Newton, Nursery School, and the re-accreditation of the Striar JCC Early Learning Center, Stoughton. They join already certified pre-schools: Erna and Julius Hertz Nursery School, Temple Israel, Sharon; Judge and Mrs. Lewis Goldberg Nursery School, Cong. Kehillath Israel, Brookline; Frances Jacobson Early Childhood Center, Temple Israel, Boston; Gan Yeladim Early Learning Center, Newton; Jewish Preschool, Lexington; Yaakov Spellman Early Learning Center, Striar Hebrew Academy, Sharon; and Temple Beth Shalom Children’s Center, Needham.

Magen HaGan Accreditation is renewable every 5 years. During that period, the director, staff and BJE personnel engage in school improvement and self-assessment; they work rigorously together to follow up on the suggestions and recommendations of the accrediting team. In preparation for reaccreditation, they evaluate and document program growth and change. The BJE then recognizes Magen HaGan preschools that continue to meet criteria for articulating their Judaic philosophy and implementing their program effectively, ensuring the impact of enhanced Judaic programming in the preschools and their commitment to serious ongoing professional development.


The Billy Dalwin Pre-School of Temple Emunah, Lexington

The Billy Dalwin Pre-School is an inclusive Jewish developmental preschool that respects individual needs and abilities. Our goal is to provide active learning opportunities in a warm, engaging, caring learning community environment that foster positive Jewish iden-tity, value the diversity of background and observance of our Pre-School families, and cre-ate a sense of kehillah for our children, families and staff. Judaic and secular curricula are thoughtfully created and presented holistically, supported by age-appropriate activities that engage each child fully.
We chose to enter the Magen HaGan accreditation process because it represented a new area of growth for us. It provided a useful structure for reflective teaching and for reexamin-ing our Jewish programming. It supported our commitment to developmentally appropriate practice. And it was a natural progression from our staff work on multiple intelligences, Jewish values and themes, and the integration of Massachusetts Guidelines for Preschool Learning Experiences and skills into our curriculum. Because we had already defined a set of core values derived from Jewish mitzvot and middot and had already developed and im-plemented significant curricula that integrated Judaic and secular learning, some of us ques-tioned whether we would benefit from Magen HaGan accreditation.

Over time, the answer became clear, and we found that this 3 year journey enriched “Billy Dalwin” profoundly as an incredible vehicle for professional development and team-building. The staff studied Torah as a lens to explore developmental issues pertinent to our preschool families. After grappling with the text, its possible meanings and applications, we shared our insights with preschool parents and brought Torah characters to life for our chil-dren. We created curriculum that addresses a broader set of Judaic topics and themes, and we added to the Magen HaGan curriculum grid. The new document reflected our educa-tional approach and program priorities.
By learning and working together, teachers increased their comfort level and “owned” the process. The skill and ease with which our teachers approached each aspect of the accredi-tation was a testament to their talent, creativity and dedication to our program. We ex-panded on themes such as t’filot; we increased the number of family education events. Our children have benefited directly from this, engaging in classroom and family activities that offer a greater variety of dynamic and meaningful Jewish experiences. We have included parents as partners in our evaluation process, soliciting their input as we reflect upon our current Judaic curriculum and set the agenda for the future.

Throughout the accreditation process we were mentored by Naomi Chernin and supported by Rabbis Lerner and Jacobs, other Senior Staff, Jodi Kaufman, Marsha Mirkin, and our incomparable Pre-School Board of Directors. It may take a village to raise a child, but we have found that it takes a kehillah to achieve Magen HaGan accreditation. We can whole-heartedly say that the process was worthwhile, resulting in a richer experience for the chil-dren, families and staff of the Billy Dalwin Pre-School. We thank all for their help, as we  prepare to take the next steps on our Jewish journey!

Temple Beth Avodah Nursery School, Newton

Temple Beth Avodah Nursery school is a wonderful preschool that has been in operation for over thirty years. Specializing in Early Childhood Jewish education for 2.9 – 5 year olds, our school nurtures and encourages each child to grow academically, socially and spiritually.  Our curriculum fosters individual choice appropriate to each child’s development. We are dedicated to providing a warm and stimulating environment in which the children participate in daily activities focusing on fine and gross motor skills, reading and math readiness concepts (numbers, letters and shapes), music, movement, literature, cooking, creative art experiences and indoor/outdoor play.

Our motto is “where love of Judaism grows”.  As Jewish educators we realize how important it is for every generation to discover and celebrate our culture and its holidays.  Our goal is for the children to love and embrace Judaism as an important and defining part of their future.  We teach the children in a way that is fun and meaningful through programs including our monthly whole school tefillah (prayer) song sessions, weekly Shabbat celebrations with our Rabbi, Movable Seder, and Torah Alive!  We plan “trips” to Israel, where the children bring a suitcase, grab their boarding pass and hop on a plane to the Promised Land.  Our strong connection to Israel is also met through The Boston-Haifa Partnership.  We are very proud of our connection with Early Childhood Educators (gananot) in Israel over the past five years.  We bring Israel into the classroom throughout the year with food, celebrations, and daily weather reports.

The children, as well as their families, have opportunity to participate together through programs centering on holidays, Shabbat, Havdalah, and Israel.  Holidays and festivals offer a time to have fun and be creative while establishing a life-long connection to Judaism.  Books, Hebrew words, songs and food are a daily part of our program helping to make connections to important Jewish customs.  The children love crafting many ritual items including Shabbat and Havdalah sets, menorahs, Seder plates, and matzah covers, which they can bring home and use in their holiday celebrations.   We include information for parents about holidays and customs so that they can celebrate in their home and create memories and traditions for years to come.

Jewish values are a very important part of our curriculum.   Mitzvot, derech eretz, community, Tzedakah, gimulat hasadim are values that we incorporate into our program.  We encourage the children to be kind to themselves, each other and the world.  As the children leave Temple Beth Avodah Nursery School and continue on their educational and spiritual path we are confident that they will keep building upon the Judaic foundation established here.

Temple Shalom Nursery School, Newton

The Temple Shalom of Newton Nursery School is committed to creating a warm, caring Jewish environment that is welcoming to both the child and his/her family. We acknowledge and are sensitive to the varied backgrounds and orientations of our families. Because we are dedicated to supporting the development of the whole child, we believe that building a partnership with parents is an important part of creating a positive school experience for the child. Therefore parents are always welcome to join us in the classroom or for our Jewish holiday celebrations.

Learning about Jewish tradition and holidays within the synagogue setting provides our children with many opportunities to explore and develop their Jewish identity.  Mitzvot, Torah, Tzedakah, Hebrew, and Israel are interwoven into the fabric of daily life in the classroom. Children learn what it means to be a member of a Jewish school community, to be caring friends, to be kind to animals, and to care for the environment. Classroom animals are fed before snack is served. A sick classmate is called to offer a “Refuah Shlaymah”. Meals and special gifts are made to acknowledge a new baby, a move to a new home, and other Jewish life cycle events. Recycling and composting is done with help from our parents. The children come together as a school community to celebrate Shabbat, Havdalah, and Rosh Chodesh. We also hold family Kabbalat Shabbat dinners and a family Havdalah program as well as other family programs which correlate to what is happening in the classroom.

Our active membership in the Boston/Haifa Early Childhood Partnership for the past six years, has further enriched our program providing avenues for bringing Israel to our children through visits and curriculum exchanges with our Israeli partners. Our birthday celebrations have taken on an “Israeli flavor”. On Fridays, children now make a little Challah to take home and enjoy Israeli dancing as part of our Shabbat celebration.

A commitment to being life long learners is one of the values of the Temple Shalom congregation.  This value is also reflected in the Nursery School community through attendance to our family programs, through our being a site for Ikkarim for the second time in three years, through staff professional development, and through attendance to the Early Childhood Institute at Hebrew College.

The process of fulfilling each of the criteria areas for Magen HaGan has been a valuable experience for us as a school on several different levels.  Over the past three years, the staff has taken time to reflect on each component of our Judaic curriculum and the interconnections. During the first year we spent time defining our goals and objectives to insure that we had a spiraling curriculum progression across our age groups, and identifying the pedagogical reasons for the concepts and values we have chosen to emphasize in our curriculum.  During each subsequent year, we have continued to refine and enhance our foci and techniques. The Magen HaGan criteria areas provided us with the framework not only for organizing our program content, but for more easily communicating what we do to our Nursery School parents, to the Temple professional staff,  and to the Temple Board of Directors. Gathering the documentation for the “Curriculum Day” review, also gave us the opportunity to recognize and to celebrate the wonderfully rich and varied Judaic program that our teachers, the children and their families experience in our program.

Striar JCC's Early Learning Center

The Striar JCC’s Early Learning Center received its first Magen Hagan accreditation in June 2003.  At that time the primary focus of the Striar Preschools and Full Day Learning Center was to instill strong Jewish values, build connections with the state of Israel through the expanding Boston-Haifa early childhood connection, as well as the daily integration of the Jewish calendar into the very fabric of the program’s curriculum goals.

The Striar JCC ELC is immensely fortunate to have a tenured professional staff that is fully committed to providing the highest measure of excellence in Jewish early childhood education for young children and their families.  Continuing staff development and Jewish family education are amongst the driving forces that have elevated the Striar ELC to new heights in Jewish early childhood education.

Together in the course of the last five years, Lisa Aframe, Striar ELC Director and Sue Rosman, Striar ELC School Director led the way towards further growth of the program Jewishly.  The educational terminology, observation, documentation and reflection found new meaning at the Striar ELC.  Observing “where” the program had been, studying the validating documentation and reflecting upon the path taken towards Magen Hagan accreditation in 2003 were all essential before envisioning the “next steps” in our Jewish journey into the future.

In the course of the past five years, the Striar ELC staff was privileged to have had a multitude of experiences that moved the program closer to its goals of excellence in Jewish early childhood education.  Staff visits to Israel, building relationships with early childhood educators in Haifa, two year participation as a pilot school in the nationally recognized Jewish Early Childhood Initiative (JECEI), the creation and formal dedication of the Striar ELC Children’s Torah (written and illustrated by the ELC children over a two year period), numerous “Family Challenges” as a tool for Jewish family education and the beginning stages of development of a new social curriculum based on the principles of derech eretz and Torah are just a few of the wonderful chapters in the last five years of our Jewish journey and Megan Hagan reaccreditation. 

In addition to the ever-changing curriculum, we have made influential changes in the school’s environment. The addition of a curio cabinet in the entry clearly displays the ELC’s history through treasures of our past twenty years.  Each item has a story and a unique history of its own.  The ambiance is palpable as is the support and connection of the ELC families to the acceptance of excellence in programming offered at the Striar JCC Early Learning Center.
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