Playing, Growing, and Learning Safely during COVID-19

Early childhood education is imperative to children’s intellectual and social growth – and in Greater Hartford we’re fortunate to have several excellent options for Jewish early childhood education, including the Mandell JCC’s Beatrice Fox Auerbach Early Childhood Center. Last year, your generous donations to Federation’s Annual Campaign allowed us to distribute $20,000 to the ECC. And as the pandemic hit, Federation support allowed the J to continue its high-quality early childhood programming. In the letter below, Andrea Rosenfield, Assistant Director of the ECC, shares how your contributions are making a difference today:

Since reopening in July, the JCC’s ECC team has worked diligently to adapt to the ever-changing conditions presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. We are proud of the strength of character our faculty have shown during this time. From designing inviting classroom environments that comply with our rigorous cleaning standards, to re-imagining sensory play that meets the tactile needs of young learners, their ingenuity and commitment is unparalleled.  Walk into one of our classrooms and you will find whimsical learning “invitations” that spark children's creativity, such as a painting sea shells with water, tinkering at individual “potions stations,” roasting marshmallows over a campfire, or observing how beans sprout in window bags! Our educators are part of a community of practice – one in which we share strategies, triumphs, and challenges and problem-solve together. 

Our priority continues to be the health and safety of all ECC community members. With the uncontrollable conditions of COVID-19, our planning has continually balanced the need for children to reconnect with their peers in a nurturing environment. Since we reopened in the summer for a morning enrichment program and then began the school year with a full day program, we’ve developed and fine-tuned our procedures for curbside pickup and drop-off and our sanitizing protocols, and we’ve implemented a rigorous policy regarding illness.  Being a part of the ECC community provides our educators and families a sense of belonging and purpose. 

As part of our collaboration with the JCC Association of North America, we utilize the Sheva framework: seven core principles that provide a Jewish lens for everything we do at the ECC. All of the changes we’ve made due to COVID-19 align with our philosophy of families as engaged partners, educators as professionals, and the importance of tikkun olam: taking responsibility for the health and well-being of our community.

Currently, all 14 of our classrooms are open — under reduced capacity regulation — providing children with much-needed routine, positive peer interactions, and the opportunity to do their most important work of all: play! We are grateful to our community for the abundance of support, patience, and generosity of spirit shown during this most challenging time. Our individual journeys reflect and illuminate our masa – the Hebrew word for our collective journey. This community is one that comes together both in crisis and in celebration, and we could not be more grateful.

Click here to learn more about the Mandell JCC’s Early Childhood Center.

Photo caption: Working in teams, JCC preschoolers used a variety of materials to construct their own miniature sukkot in preparation for the fall harvest festival of Sukkot. Image courtesy of Mandell JCC.