Florence G. Heller JCC is one of the cornerstones of early childhood education in East Lakeview and a welcoming, diverse and inclusive community of families, children and educators. Here they have developed a vision based-on the Reggio Emilia philosophy, a relationship-based, child-centered approach to learning. The Reggio philosophy embraces the nature and the outdoors as a valuable learning tool. Experiencing fresh air, children are able to learn in a space that is both energizing and provides soothing sensory input which is especially welcome during this pandemic.
With 25 years of Early Childhood experience, Director, Rachel Weber believes that, “Nature is a powerful means in stimulating children’s imagination and curiosity. This is why JCC Chicago prioritizes year-round outdoor learning as a central part of our program for years—even prior to Covid.” Research shows outdoor learning improves self-regulation, advances gross motor skill development, increases concentration, and promotes self-confidence.
With a beautiful outdoor space in the city for the children to explore, children quickly become competent and capable learners. Children are eager to learn when their curiosity is engaged, our team of teachers are trained to ask open ended questions to help children become critical thinkers. The goal is not just to feed information to children, but to encourage children’s own exploration and learning–from as young as 6 weeks through Kindergarten.
The J’s Early Childhood program values and emphasizes social emotional learning. One of the best parts of JCC Chicago is they have their own Social Service Team on staff. Social Service providers work directly with teachers, families, and directors to identify and support the individual needs of each family and child.
Additionally, JCC Chicago supports their educators’ professional growth by offering on-going training and professional development throughout the year. Teachers have written and received grants, and most recently were awarded funding for muddy buddy suits and gloves to help the children be more comfortable outside year-round. “Even Chicago weather can’t stop us!” said Weber.
It’s no coincidence that community is part of the Jewish Community Center Chicago’s name. Wrote Allison Hassing, a parent of an infant enrolled for the ‘21/’22 school year, “I just have to say, I am already so impressed. Even in those few minutes I was there, I felt at home. And the fact that you did not expect to see me and yet somehow remembered my infant’s name, who won’t even be attending yet, was so heartwarming. It feels like a genuine, authentic, warm, loving, and welcoming community, and we would be so honored to be a part of it.”
And the community feels the same way, as Florence G. Heller JCC was named the “Best of 2020” for Preschools by Better Magazine. Schedule a virtual tour to speak with Rachel at https://earlychildhood.jccchicago.org/florence-g-heller-jcc/