In the heart of downtown Fort Lauderdale, classrooms are being designed and educators are busy preparing an innovative curriculum in anticipation of the Downtown Jewish Education Center’s (DJEC) September 2015 launch of the first Reggio Emilia-inspired preschool in east Fort Lauderdale.
“At the heart of the Reggio Emilia philosophy is the belief that children are full of curiosity and creativity; they are not empty memory banks waiting to be filled with facts, figures and dates. “ says Devorah Kaplan, founder of the preschool. “Our Reggio-inspired curriculum is flexible and emerges from children’s ideas, thoughts and observations”.
The new classrooms at the Reggio Emilia Preschool at DJEC include distinctive design features that align with the school’s specialized theme and enhance the core philosophy. The Reggio preschool is inspired by an educational viewpoint that was started by parents from the villages around the Reggio Emilia region of Italy after World War II. Like a village, the building footprint is designed around a centralized area known as a Piazza, where children interact or socialize in larger groups – and then gather in smaller areas for more individualized exploration.
The Reggio Emilia teaching approach puts the natural environment at the center of its philosophy, so the classroom is infused with light and is accented with natural materials such as wood, wicker, feathers, cotton, seashells, tree bark, and lots of other sensory textures. The indoors and outdoors intersect seamlessly as large glass windows and doors look out upon beautiful scenery along with items constructed from natural materials. “We hired a well known carpenter/ artist to custom design and build the outdoor play equipment, aimed to provoke the child’s curiosity, such as an authentic play kitchen, music wall, and water paint station. We’ve also commissioned him to build a plant and herb garden that will allow for further interaction between the students and the outdoors.” This is truly a work of art in progress!
The preschool’s theme includes a focus on integration of Jewish concepts into applicable curriculum areas within a student-centered approach toward knowledge (which is treasured in a Reggio school). The Reggio goal to cultivate within children a lifelong passion for learning and exploration, combined with teaching Jewish values, is what led Devorah Kaplan, founder of the Reggio Emilia Preschool at DJEC and established Educator for more than 20 years, to commit herself to the pedagogy; she wholeheartedly believes that “children who are drawn into learning through positive experiences in a holistic setting develop a love of learning that they will carry with them throughout their lives, and this is not limited to schoolwork.”
Staff at the school echoed excitement about the launch. Dr. Marla Reis, a Licensed Psychologist and green living consultant, was brought on to assist in designing the Reggio environment, as well as taking part in creating the curriculum based on the Reggio philosophy. “Once I saw the materials and understood the Reggio philosophy, I felt completely aligned with the model! I am so honored to have been invited to take part in this cutting-edge education, and I’m excited for the children who will be enveloped in this preschool experience!”
Registration is now open for the Fall for children ages 18 months through 3 years. Full days or half days are offered. For more information visit the website at www.GanReggio.com or call 954.667.8000