Art falls under the umbrella of creative expression in early childhood education. It is viewed as a way children communicate with their caregivers, peers, and the world around them. In the Reggio Emilia philosophy, art is considered one of the many "languages of children" for self expression as described by Loris Malaguzzi. At Giving Tree Early Learning, we strive to incorporate art into everyday activities in the classroom while introducing children to new materials and mediums in our Art Atelier.
Every classroom has an easel for gross motor art and an art center. A toddler art center looks different than a preschool art center because each classroom's art area is developmentally appropriate for their age group. Teachers plan invitations that allow children to explore different materials with various mediums like bubble wrap with paint, clay with collage materials, and tissue paper with glue.
The Art Atelier is a space that is specifically focused on exploring, manipulating, and creating art through self expression. This space contains a plethora of art materials that engage children and promote curiosity and creativity. Teachers set up different invitations in the Art Atelier for children to participate in or allow for free exploration of the materials. Materials that are not commonly found in classrooms are stored in the Art Atelier. Children have the unique opportunity to manipulate various fabrics, clay slabs, ceramic tiles, or large cardboard and styrofoam panels in our Art Atelier. The art activities are child-led and are supported by the teachers through the introduction of additional materials or questions directed towards furthering a child's natural thought process. Children have freedom to create whatever they wish to create as authentically as possible.
Art, not only allows children to express themselves creatively, it also aligns with many early learning foundations. Early learning foundations are a framework for teachers to reference when creating developmentally appropriate activities. The experiences children participate in allow them creative freedom while reinforcing important skills in their learning journey like language, fine and gross motor skills, sensory input, and cognitive processing skills.
The children at Giving Tree experienced the Jewish High Holidays in amazing ways. The classrooms and creative play spaces featured provocations, invitations, and art experiences with an emphasis on each holiday.
For Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, we had an eventful week full of amazing activities centered around the themes and symbols of the holiday. Apples, bees, honey and challah are just a few of those symbols. Our week consisted of a visit from a live ram to learn about where shofars (horns that produce sound) come from, the Apple Market, and honey cake baking to share with our families. During the week before Rosh Hashanah, Rabbi Schusterman visits our program to blow the shofar every morning. Children explored apple and honey themed provocations and created apple, honey, and bee themed crafts to symbolize a sweet new year. The Oak class enjoyed a visit from a beekeeper as well! We rounded out our explorations with a collaborative art project involving honeycomb shaped artwork was created during Rosh Hashanah week. It is proudly displayed in our hallway.
Provocation tables in each classrooms and the light studio set the tone for the holiday of Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. We explore concepts of sound (for the shofar) and the weight of the mitzvot (good deeds) we do each year.
For Sukkot, the festival of booths- the children learned about sukkahs and the fall harvest. The children engaged in various construction projects to create their own unique sukkahs. Many children constructed sukkahs at their homes and enjoyed eating snack in our school's sukkah located in the Outdoor Classroom. The Oak class even created their own large sukkah in the Atelier that everyone could fit in. We had special visitors including Rabbi Grossbaum, Rabbi Birnhack, and Rabbi Rutstein in the Oak classroom. They explained the meaning of the lulav (willow, palm and myrtle branches) and etrog (a citron fruit) and did shared the traditional blessings with the children. The Oak class was able to take what they learned from the morning blessings and show the younger classes the lulav and etrog.
Giving Tree Early Learning underwent a metamorphosis over the summer months. New flooring, furniture and classroom updates occurred in both indoor and outdoor spaces to reflect a stronger Reggio-inspired aesthetic. Accessibility and functionality were two key components as we renovated the Giving Tree classrooms.
In August, we welcomed families back to the program with a wonderful back to school night that allowed families the opportunity to interact in the new classrooms environments and to meet their teachers!
In addition to our newly renovated spaces, we also added in new classrooms and staff and changed the name of our classrooms to represent the various species of trees found in Israel. We look forward to sharing another school year with you at Giving Tree Early Learning!
On July 31st, Giving Tree and HHAI families, friends and staff came together for a day of service to help prepare the outdoor spaces for the first day of school. Weeding, tree trimming and construction were just a few of the tasks completed by volunteers of all ages.
Thank you to everyone for your hard work!
In the spring each year, we retell the story of the Hebrew people's exodus from Egypt. We tell of how baby Moshe (Moses) began his life in the river Nile to grow into a Prince of Egypt and later a leader of the Hebrew people as he challenged King Pharoah on Hashem's behalf to lead his people from oppression.
The story comes to life at Giving Tree through dramatic play, sensory explorations, story telling and the creation of Passover items such as the seder plate, afikomen bag and stories.
Take a look at some of our explorations:
Matzah Factory- Rabbi Schusterman brings the Matzah Factory to life each year. Matzah is made by combining flour and water together to form a dough. Next the dough is rolled flat and poked full of holes so that the dough will not rise when baked.
With the experience of making matzah fresh in our minds, we added in several dramatic play elements to repeat the experience both inside and outside of the classroom. Additionally, we took story telling to the next level in our light studio and classroom explorations of the ten plagues and Baby Moshe!
Cooking projects are also a part of our Passover explorations. Charoset (spiced apple mixture), tasting of bitter herbs/greens provide us with a small sampling of the Passover seder offerings.
Constructing the great pyramids using various manipulatives is a fun way to learn 3 dimensional shapes, engineering, spacial awareness and team work!
The holiday would not be complete without the creation of Passover projects such as seder plates, pillows, matzah covers/afikomen bags, Passover cards and the planting of bitter herbs. Additionally, each classroom created books exploring Passover. Katon- Colors of Passover, Maon- Shapes of Passover, Peuton- Numbers of Passover and Ganon- Alphabet of Passover.
On Purim, we retell the story of Queen Esther and Mordechai who saved the Jewish people from an evil plot by a man named, Haman in ancient Persia. This day is a celebration to commemorate the salvation of the Jewish people. We explore the story in various ways as well as Purim themes that include kings and queens, topsy-turvy and more!
One tradition is to create a jelly filled triangle shaped cookie called a Hamentashen. Each class had the opportunity to make chocolate chip and strawberry hamentashen to share with their families!
Retelling the Purim story is explored through role playing, dramatic play, puppetry, felt boards and through a dynamic interactive megillah reading with Rabbi Schusterman!
In the Purim story, Queen Esther resides in a palace. So of course we must explore castle building both inside of the classroom and in our Art Atelier! Sand castles using kinetic sand, shaving cream mortar and foam blocks, and 2 dimensional renderings are just a few of the ways we construct our castles.
Other explorations include an obstacle course, carnival style games and pool noodle horse races! Let's not forget the creation of mishloach manot baskets, masks, crowns and groggers!
Lastly, we visited the Light Studio to explore bedazzled crowns with loose parts, shadow puppets, black light art in the castle, Purim story puppetry and a noise-tastic megillah reading with instruments!
People sometimes ask us: how does a Reggio-inspired preschool differ from traditional preschools?
Traditional preschools focus largely on teaching children skills by repetition or through rote memorization. As a Reggio-inspired program, we seek to follow the lead of the children as they make discoveries through play and the manipulation of materials.
We view ourselves as facilitators of learning, sharing in the children's joy, wonder and curiosity. Our classrooms are considered the "third teacher" and focus on natural elements and materials. We use loose parts and a collection of open-ended materials to help each child to express themselves creatively. We provide access to mediums of self-expression including music, movement and art. We believe children must be allowed to explore, create and innovate to maximize their potential and become confident learners and critical thinkers.
Our Ganon classroom (pre-K) is rated Paths to QUALITY Level 3 ensuring that your child has access to the 10 learning centers (art, music, sensory, writing, literacy, mathematics, science, blocks, dramatic play and manipulatives), a developmentally appropriate child-led curriculum and qualified early childhood educators. Our small class sizes allow for individual and small group instruction to support differentiated learning within the classroom so that your child can continue to develop along their own unique growth trajectory. Provocations and invitations to play promote discovery and wonder within your child to foster a life-long love of learning.
Additionally, the Ganon children experience the culture and values of Judaism through a play-based exploration of the holidays and traditions. Each week the students participate in a Shabbat party and share in the hagim (holidays) as they occur throughout the year.
A highlight of the Ganon classroom is the annual production of Jan Brett's, The Mitten. Each child receives a role in the story as either a person or animal. Next each child completes a research project on his/her character. Books, videos and photographs are utilized by the students to collect information on each character in the story. He or she will then decide how to share the information. Some students choose to create books, posters and drawings, while others prefer to work with clay or wire to sculpt their animals. The study concludes with a full production of the story. The students create the backdrops, tickets, concession stand sales and even money for the audience to use! This year, Mrs. Mahern will reprise her role as director leading this year's production to new heights as the students perform in the Cultural Arts Center auditorium.
Join us on Sunday, March 6th to learn more about the program. RSVP is required. Click HERE to register.
One of the biggest questions I receive from parents and professionals alike, is "what is your philosophy of education?"
While many may see that as a simple question with a straight forward answer, I find that it is anything but! Our philosophy of education is intricate and includes not just our academic approach but also the environment, the child, the families and educators.
Image of the Child
We believe that all children have the right to quality early childhood education. We view each child as capable, curious and a willing participant of the learning process. Every child has a right to a learning environment that meets their needs, including the right to educators who recognize their individual strengths and who support their development. We believe that children have the right to self regulation, discovery, exploration and mess making. We seek to foster a love of learning and a collaboration between ourselves and the children as we learn alongside of each other.
We believe children are CAPABLE of...
Who is the Child to Me
Children are the most important aspect of life, for without them all would cease to exist. The role of a teacher is to nurture, love, provide care, support and help to develop the child. We love what we do and are here because we believe that children deserve the opportunity to thrive. We seek to build connections with our children, their families and the community. In order to understand our role as educators, we must first understand, “Who is the child to me?”
We believe the child is...
The Role of the First Teacher- the Parent
We believe that the first teacher in a child’s life is his/her parent. From their first breath, you are there to help guide and shape their development. Your role is crucial in helping them to become confident and capable human beings. We recognize the immense importance of this relationship and seek to build relationships with you and your child to foster a collaborative learning experience. Through family engagement and communication, we look to build connections that will further our understanding of your culture and life experiences so that we may better serve the needs of your child and your family.
We believe parents are...
Environment as the Third Teacher
We believe that there are three teachers in a child’s life-
1. the parent, 2. the child and 3. the environment. The environment serves as a source of inspiration for your child's curiousity, sense of self and learning. We strive to provide children with real world interactions that include nature, realia (real world objects), and appropriate risk taking. Our classroom and play environments reflect this commitment to providing hands-on learning experiences for your children. Attention to color, aesthetics and function resonate in each space to create invitations to play and provocation of learning. Each environment features elements of light, color, nature, loose parts (open-ended play materials) and the 10 learning centers as outlined by Paths to QUALITY; Reading/Literacy, Writing, Mathematics, Science, Sensory, Music, Blocks, Manipulatives, Dramatic Play and Art.
The heart of our school can be found within the culture, values and traditions of Judaism that the children experience each day. Mitzvot (good deeds), tzedakah (charity), and chesed (kindness) are part of each classroom community. The students of our Ganon (pre-k) classroom reflected on what Judaism means to them sharing words and thoughts to create the word cloud below. Following, they created pictures of their understanding of Judaism and Jewish values.
Curriculum: A Child-Directed Approach
The Giving Tree Early Learning program is deeply inspired by the Reggio Emilia philosophy of education. Following WWII, the town of Reggio Emilia was war-torn and hurting. In order to heal, the town believed that the future lies with the children. Thus the Reggio Emilia philosophy was born with the guidance of Loris Malaguzzi. This philosophy believes that children have undeniable rights, including the right to construct their own knowledge.
With this inspiration, the teachers seek to help facilitate the exploration of the interests of the students through the Hundred Languages of Children. Malaguzzi describes the Hundred Languages of Children as the "infinite ways that children can express, explore, and connect their thoughts, feelings and imaginings.” Each day, teachers provide invitations to play and p
rovocations as a way to ignite new discoveries that blend the Hundred Languages with developmentally appropriate practices.
We pair the Indiana Early Learning Foundation Standards with hands-on, child-directed learning opportunities to support the development of the whole child. We utilize the Handwriting Without Tears program and incorporate Math Their Way concepts into our mathematical explorations to support the academic rigors needed for success in Kindergarten and beyond.
Paths to QUALITY is a voluntary State wide rating system that guarantees that not only is the health and safety of your child reaching and exceeding minimum standards but that the level of care, daily interactions and curriculum are being conducted in the best interest of your child.
Each year, our program goes through an annual inspection in which our rater spends the day moving through our program observing instruction, student/teacher interactions, classroom environments and validating documentation of program standards and procedures.
Each level of Paths to QUALITY builds on the foundation of the previous one, resulting in significant quality improvements at each stage and in national accreditation at the highest level, level 4. The system validates early care and education programs for ongoing efforts to achieve higher standards of quality and provides incentives and awards for success.
Giving Tree Early Learning maintains a Level 3 rating and is working towards national accredication through NAEYC.
The difference between Level 2 and Level 3 are found not in the learning environment but in the instruction itself. The PTQ Rater observes teacher-child interactions, assesses the use of the Early Learning Foundation standards to ensure developmentally appropriate practice, reviews staff development, evaluates student portfolios as well as inspecting all of the standards from the two previous levels.
The checklist for the rating visit is 11 pages long! While we have effectively met the minimum requirements, we strive to provide a learning experience that goes above and beyond.
We are often asked by early childhood professionals to come into our program to observe developmentally appropriate practices in action. In the Indianapolis early childhood community, Giving Tree has become a local hotspot. Our Reggio inspired curriculum, commitment to the children and clear documentation of how learning occurs through play has shined brightly. Brittany Flaugher formerly of Child Care Answers referrred to our program as reflecting "the tapestry of life" because she can see each thread- families, children, teachers, environment and curriculum, interwoven to create a rich and vibrant "tapestry of life."
Below are the components met in PTQ Level 3:
1. Portfolios- Each school year we assess, observe and collect work samples showing your child's growth. These portfolios include pictures, written observations, work samples important notes from home, and our ISTAR-KR assessments.
2. Environment- each classroom contains 10 learning centers with a minimum of three components. Those centers are Reading/Literacy, Writing, Art, Mathematics, Science, Sensory, Music, Blocks, Manipulatives, Dramatic Play. In addition to the PTQ standards we also provide Reggio inspiration throughout with a focus on the use of open-ended materials and loose parts. The most important component of the environment, aside from the safety and learning centers, is on the representation of your child within the space. Each classroom must contain photographs, dictations and work samples of your child engaging in their day. This allows your child to feel represented and a part of the classroom environment. Loris Malaguzzi, the founder of the Reggio philosophy once said,
"Teachers must leave behind an isolated, silent mode of working, which leaves no traces. Instead they must discover ways to communicate and document the children’s evolving experiences at school. They must prepare a steady flow of quality information targeted to parents but appreciated by children and teachers."
It is this source of inspiration that we document the learning process of the children and adamantly believe that the documentation exists for all of those involved as a form of validation and reflection of the learning at the hands of our children.
3. Curriculum- PTQ outlines developmentally appropriate practice and a strong emphasis on teacher-child relationships. As you walk through the hallways of your child's classroom, make sure to take a glance at the documentation and lesson plans. There you will find the Foundation standards which outline the developmentally appropriate goals and skills for your child. You can learning more about the Foundation standards by visiting https://www.doe.in.gov/standards/indiana-early-learning-foundations
4. Interactions- The PTQ check list includes a variety of ways in which our interactions with the children are assessed and evaluated. The Rater is looking for:
1. Are the children allowed to make choices in their play throughout the day?
2. Are the children heard and listened to?
3. Are the children's needs being met by a caring and attentive adult?
4. Are the children's interests being reflected and supported in the learning process?
5. Are the child's individual needs being met by the caregiver?
6. Are the children being respected and spoken to at their eye level?
7. Are the teachers helping children to problem solve, self regulate and resolve conflicts?
8. Are the teachers supporting the child's social- emotional development?
9. Are the children being supported in developing self-help skills?
10. Is the teacher taking advantage of the many natural learning experiences associated with daily life and makes those "teachable moments" opportunities of learning?
5. Professional Development- A component of the PTQ process is that staff receive a minimum of 20 hours of ongoing professional development each year. These trainings must be relevant to early childhood development and the needs of the children. From last October until now, the staff have completed 640.50 hours of professional development. On average, that comes to each staff member having completed a minimum of 25 hours of training yearly. Additionally, we have staff members who have recently completed or are in the process of completing advanced degrees in early childhood education and non-profit management. In 2018, the Director and Assistant Director traveled to Reggio Emilia, Italy to study the Reggio Emilia teaching philosophy directly. Our staff not only partakes in training sessions but have also led trainings at various conferences and facilities throughout the greater Indianapolis area.
IAEYC Annual Conference (Indiana Association for the Education of Young Children)
INPEC Conference (Indiana Private Educators)
Indy Reggio Inspired Educators
Ministry-based Conferences and workshops
Early Literacy Conference (Child Care Answers)
Ivy TECH Early Education Conference
JGFI Day of Learning (Jewish Federation of Greater Indianapolis)
The importance of quality early childhood programming is undeniable. Study after study shows that the benefits are found not just in the development of our children but also in the economy and community at large. In the Indianapolis area only two Jewish preschool programs have received the PTQ high quality rating and only Giving Tree Early Learning offers a play based curriculum rooted in Reggio inspiration.
Thank you for allowing us to be a part of your child's growth and CONGRATULATIONS to the GT Team on recertifying Paths to QUALITY Level 3.
Tu B'Shvat is the New Year for the trees.. It is the date from which we calculate the age of trees which is important as we must make sure a tree is ready to be harvested at the appropriate time.
Tu B'Shvat takes place on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat and marks the beginning of the growing season for trees in Israel. Trees are starting to blossom there at this time. (Almond tree first.)
The classes at Giving Tree explored the Almond tree- Ha'Shkediya Porachat in Hebrew- though various invitations of loose parts and art.
Another way that we learn about Tub'shvat is through our sense of taste! There are seven special species, "Shivat Haminim" for which Israel is famous: Wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates.
Each class was able to taste grapes, dried figs and dates, kalamata olives and investigated a pomegrante!
Mrs. Alethia Minlaff, Director: you can reach her by emailing email@example.com