Back to (pre)school
By Judy Klein

For tots and toddlers, preschool is the beginning of a journey toward lifelong learning. For their parents, it can be a demonstration of the wonders of education. For both parents and children, plenty of educational surprises are in the offing when area preschools open the 2012-2013 school year later this month. New experiences are in store, as are lots of unique and fun ways to teach old lessons.
Akiba Academy of Dallas is celebrating “50 years of achieving the extraordinary,” director of early childhood education Jordana Bernstein said. Events and educational activities are planned throughout the year for the golden anniversary, and preschoolers will be learning “how big 50 is” by performing tasks such as counting 50 mezuzahs and doing 50 mitzvot.
Also in store for the tots is a new way to connect with nature: a mud garden. Children will wear mud shoes and special mud garden T-shirts to play, and they quickly discover the educational values associated with the fun of getting dirty.
The teachers’ toolbox is expanding at The Ann and Nate Levine Early Childhood Center, a Solomon Schechter School. Classrooms in the pre-kindergarten, and 2- and 3-year-old programs have received iPads, said Sheryl Feinberg, early childhood center director. Teachers are using them to experiment with photos, videos and other methods of enhancing current units of study.
The school’s Hillcrest play space is almost complete. This area adds to the existing working garden, sand beach and bike town. Plans include a soccer field, basketball court, swings and a music, art and water-play outdoor classroom.
Levine also has a new prayer book for 3-year-olds and pre-kindergarten. Created by Levine Rabbi Eve Posen, it is intended to help young children begin to understand what it means to be the “people of the book.”
The curriculum at Congregation Anshai Torah Preschool in Plano always includes new and innovative programs geared toward tots and toddlers, education director Bob Westle said. The creative environment fosters self-confidence and promotes Jewish identity, values and traditions in young children and their families. Alyse Feinberg is the early childhood director.
The parent-toddler and pre-kindergarten programs at Adat Chaverim in Plano meet on Sundays when religious school is in session. The youngest group begins at age 2 and gathers from 9-11 a.m. every other Sunday, while pre-kindergarten sessions are held from 9 a.m. to noon weekly.
Both programs use the Institute of Southern Jewish Life curriculum, director Valerie H. Klein said, which immerses the tots in a “joyful Jewish environment.” Special attention is paid to holidays and mitzvot as children learn from hands-on and meaningful activities.

Amelia Krajmalnik shows off her hands after a finger-painting project last year at Congregation Beth Torah Preschool and Kindergarten in Richardson. | Photo: Beth Torah

Beth Torah Preschool and Kindergarten is extending classroom hours, director Esther Wolf said. Early care will begin at 8 a.m., the school day will be 9 a.m.-2 p.m. and after-care hours will end at 5 p.m. For the first time, babies as young as 12 months will be accepted.
Also new this year, Wolf said, 3-year-olds will learn algebra and geometry. Introduced last year to kindergarten and pre-K classes, the “Growing With Math” program incorporates touching and feeling into counting. Pre-K tots will also learn “Handwriting Without Tears,” a literacy/phonics program that teaches how to write the letters of the alphabet, sound them out and read.
A big surprise for tots and parents is a new playground that offers three slides plus a wide slide, a rock wall to climb, a climbing ladder to the top, a sitting area, a spinner and musical instruments, Wolf said.
The Frisco Gan class of toddlers ages 1½-2½ meets from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays and/or Fridays. Under the direction of Rivkie Block and Tia Sukenik, the Jewish mothers’ day out program is beginning its second year. Held at Rosewood Academy in Frisco, a preschool childcare facility that offers classroom space and a covered outdoor playground, Frisco Gan delivers a first-time school experience in a warm, safe environment, Block said.
A new outdoor classroom called Naturescape debuted in January at the Sherry and Ken Goldberg Family Early Learning Center in the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center. Now ready to be fully utilized, early childhood director Tara Ohayon said, it consists of several learning areas in which a more natural outdoor experience is available.
Areas include a recirculating stream, mud pits and gardening. There also are spaces for art, building, and outdoor learning, and the gardening area will offer tots the added experience of eating what they grow.
Students at the Lil Goldman Early Learning Center at Congregation Ahavath Sholom in Fort Worth learn about Lag B’Omer last year. | Photo: Lil Goldman Early Learning Center

Mr. Music, a ventriloquist, is joining the core curriculum for preschoolers at Lil Goldman Early Learning Center at Ahavath Sholom in Fort Worth. He uses music and puppets to teach children about manners and more — adjusted to the Jewish curriculum, says Patricia White, director of the preschool.
There’s also a Mouse Club on tap for 3-year-olds in which they will experience computer learning. Other programs, some of which will be taught after school, include ballet, Music Makers and Stretch and Grow.
There’s a whole lot of healthy eating going on at the Temple Emanu-El Early Childhood Education Center, according to director Shelly Sender. Continuing a program begun last year, students are learning new ways to eat. No sugar is allowed, and they’re growing most of their food in the school’s 5-year-old garden, supplementing what else is needed with organic food from a farmer’s market.
The concentration is on healthy foods, so even birthday cakes have been eliminated in favor of fruits and berries, and lunches brought from home consist of a fruit, a protein and a vegetable.
Following up on the nature-based curriculum, there also have been changes as part of a five-year program to redo the classrooms. And in the works is a new Playscape, which is being designed and is scheduled to be completed by November.
At Torah Day School of Dallas, Imagination Station will focus on learning about life “Under the Sea” for the first half of the year and “Over the Sea” after that, according to preschool director, Becky Udman.
Students also will attend weekly sessions of Sensory Gym, where they will be taught a variety of sensory and large motor skills required to develop efficient sensory motor systems.
“In-trips” within the school will offer additional educational opportunities, and special visitors will help the preschoolers enjoy the excitement and benefits of field trips without leaving the school.

Preschool information

Akiba Academy of Dallas
12324 Merit Drive
Dallas 75251
Phone: 214-295-3400
Expected enrollment: 125
First Day of school: Aug. 20
The Ann and Nate Levine
Early Childhood Center,
A Solomon Schechter School
18011 Hillcrest Road
Dallas 75252
Expected enrollment: 140
First Day of school: Aug. 20
Adat Chaverim
6300 Independence Parkway, Suite A
Plano 75023
Expected enrollment: 8
First Day of school: Sept. 9
Congregation Anshai Torah Preschool
5501 W. Parker Road
Plano 75093
Expected enrollment: 38
First Day of school: Aug. 27
Beth Torah Preschool & Kindergarten
720 W Lookout Drive
Richardson 75080
972-234-1542, Ext. 222
Expected enrollment: 70
First Day of school: Aug. 27
The Frisco Gan
c/o Chabad of Plano
3904 W. Park Blvd
Plano 75075
Expected enrollment: 9
First Day of school: Sept. 5
Sherry & Ken Goldberg Family
Early Learning Center
Aaron Family Jewish Community Center
7900 Northaven Road
Dallas 75230
Expected enrollment: 175
First Day of school: Aug. 27
Lil Goldman Early Learning Center
Ahavath Sholom
4050 S Hulen
Fort Worth 76109
Expected enrollment: 95
First Day of school: Aug. 23
Temple Emanu-El Early
Childhood Education Center
8500 Hillcrest Road
Dallas 75225
Expected enrollment: 275
First Day of school: Aug. 27
Torah Day School of Dallas
6921 Frankford Street
Dallas 75252
Expected enrollment: 70
First Day of school: Aug. 24

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