This week, two preschool teachers from the Krakow JCC are spending a week of intensive learning at the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto, California. The visit is focused on incorporating Jewish values into their teaching practice and also learning more about the constructivist educational philosophy followed by the Oshman Family JCC and other American Jewish preschools. This experience is made possible by the support of the Early Childhood Morim Program of SOS International: Enriching Jewish Identity.
Debbie Togliatti is the OFJCC Leslie Family Preschool‘s Garden Pedagogista who has been part of the school for over 30 years. In 2018, Togliatti traveled to the Krakow JCC in Poland to help strengthen value-based Jewish learning at the site. Togliatti is also responsible for establishing the Giving Garden at the Leslie Family Preschool, where young children help grow produce that will be donated to those in need. The Polish visitors to Palo Alto are accompanied by Fran Pfeffer, a former Palo Alto JCC educator and volunteer for SOS International who was part of the 2018 exchange trip to Poland.
One of the most striking differences between the two schools is the size: the OFJCC Leslie Family Preschool is 20 times the size of the Krakow preschool, which is just over a year old.
The method of transmitting Jewish values at the OFJCC Leslie Family Preschool also offers a source of inspiration and best practices for the preschool educators. “It’s important to see a thriving school of Jewish educators with a very connected and involved community,” says Togliatti.
The Leslie Family Preschool offers a student-centered, constructivist approach to teaching core values. As Togliatti explains, “The preschool garden is rich for opportunities to practice Jewish values. That’s everything from sharing food, to composting and not wasting, to honoring the bees and the ladybugs.”
Sally Flinchbaugh, OFJCC Chief Operating Officer, notes, “This is a visit dedicated to continuity. We hope there will be an opportunity for more cultural exchange in the future.”