Welcome to the May Family Nursery School.
Early childhood is the gateway to learning, and here at Central Synagogue, we are committed to providing young children with a creative and experiential learning environment. During their time in our school, children are recognized as individuals with unique interests, personality traits, and strengths. We give them the freedom to be creative and encourage the self-confidence needed to explore, experiment, and problem solve. Our goal is to nurture the development of the intellectual, social and emotional, language and physical skills that will establish a strong foundation for each child as an eager and curious learner throughout his or her life, and shorter term, will ensure a successful transition to kindergarten.
Interwoven throughout our school year are rich Jewish learning experiences and compelling celebratory times that help children begin to develop a sense of connection to Judaism as they interact with the clergy, explore ritual objects, celebrate holidays and learn about Jewish values that are meaningful in their lives—tikkun olam (fixing the world), tzedakah (righteousness, often referred to as charity), hachnasat orchim (welcoming guests), and g’milut chasadim (acts of kindness).
When I am not in the classrooms interacting with our children, one of my deepest pleasures is partnering with parents during this early and tender time in their children’s lives. Whether parents wish to meet to discuss their child’s transition into our school, social interactions with their classmates, individual learning styles, or plans for school after the nursery school years—the exmissions process—I look forward to engaging with them and providing them with support, as together, we seek answers to their questions and concerns.
I invite you to learn more about our school and all that it has to offer to your children and family as an integral part of the warm, dynamic, and innovative Central Synagogue community.
Early Childhood Director
At the May Family Nursery School at Central Synagogue, our goal is to provide each child with a strong foundation for personal fulfillment, academic success and connection to Judaism throughout their lives. In every class and at every age, our approach to early childhood education centers on hands-on, experiential learning that sparks curiosity, engages creativity, and urges children to think imaginatively. As they explore their environment in the classroom, begin to think about the world outside of their classroom, and seek their own solutions to their questions and the challenges that arise through their work and play during the school day.
In a warm, welcoming, and nurturing environment that values and recognizes the uniqueness and individuality of each child, children work by learning through play in its many forms, engage with interesting and developmentally-appropriate materials, form friendships, learn how to collaborate with others, and begin the process of becoming lifelong learners with a growing sense of self-confidence, responsibility and independence.
Through a focus on emergent curriculum inspired by Reggio Emilia and other child-centered philosophies of educating young children, the interests of the children themselves become a starting point for in-depth, integrated exploration across all academic disciplines. From language, math, science, and social studies to music and art, children make connections and develop their own understanding with the guidance of teachers who are attuned to each child’s learning style and know how to help extend their knowledge, as they ponder, explore and problem solve. Throughout each child’s time in our school, we work closely with parents, communicating and partnering with them to help each child reach his or her full potential as happy, relaxed, and confident learners with a lasting sense of Jewish connection.
There are eight classes in our school for children from two to five years old, with programs ranging from Young Twos to Pre-Kindergarten. Our school day begins at 8:45 am in all classes, with staggered dismissal times based on the ages of the children.
Tuesday and Thursday, 8:45–11:00 a.m.
Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, 8:45–11:00 a.m.
Monday to Friday, 8:45 a.m.–12:00 p.m.
Monday to Friday, 8:45 a.m.–12:15 p.m.
Extended Day hours in the Green Room begin in January, when the children stay for lunch in school and the class is dismissed at 1:30 p.m. from Monday to Thursday. Dismissal on Friday continues throughout the year at 12:15 p.m. for Shabbat.
Monday to Friday, 8:45 a.m.–12:15 p.m.
Extended Day hours in the Orange Room begin in January, when the children stay for lunch in school and the class is dismissed at 1:30 p.m. from Monday to Thursday. Dismissal on Friday continues throughout the year at 12:15 p.m. for Shabbat.
Monday to Thursday, 8:45 a.m.–1:30 p.m., and 8:45 a.m.–12:15 p.m. on Friday (earlier dismissal for Shabbat)
Monday–Thursday 8:45 a.m.–2:15 p.m.; Friday 8:45 a.m.–12:15 p.m. (earlier dismissal for Shabbat)
Monday–Thursday 8:45 a.m.–2:15 p.m.; Friday 8:45 a.m.–12:15 p.m. (earlier dismissal for Shabbat)
Note: Depending on their date of birth, some children go to kindergarten directly from the Rainbow, Red, or Blue Room, while others go from the Rainbow or Red Room to the Blue Room before leaving the Nursery School for kindergarten in public or private school.
In addition to our warm, inviting, and well-stocked classrooms, we have two beautiful outdoor play areas for our children, the Rooftop Playground and the Second Floor Terrace and Garden, as well as the Barbara Brooks School Library, an indoor Movement Room, and Beir Chapel, where we gather to celebrate Shabbat as a school community at our weekly Shabbat B’yachad, Shabbat Together.
Every week, all of our classes have Music with Shira Kobren, our talented and engaging music teacher, who plays her guitar and teaches children songs, rhymes, and finger plays that complement the curriculum in each class throughout the year, as well as songs about each of the Jewish holidays that we study and celebrate (Shira also leads Tot Shabbat services which are part of Central Synagogue’s Young Family Center); and Movement with Lance Windish, our movement specialist, whose enthusiasm inspires our children to move in joyful and creative ways and to develop age-appropriate awareness, coordination, and control over their bodies and their movements.
Professor Apple, our science teacher, enriches the science experience for our two Pre-Kindergarten and our Turning Fours classes with a weekly visit to each class. With Professor Apple as their guide, children learn what it means to be a scientist, as they explore the natural world, with highlights that include making erupting volcanoes, digging in the dirt for worms, studying rocks and learning how birds fly.
Pre-literacy is an integral part of our children’s experience in school every day. A visit to our school library, the Barbara Brooks Library, is a highlight of the week for all. Our library is staffed by Rebecca Reitz [link to staff page], a gifted librarian and storyteller, and supported by a dedicated group of parent volunteers. Each class goes to the library every week to hear a story, after which the children look at books selected for them by our librarian based on their interests and the current curriculum in each class, and choose a book to check out. Our librarian collaborates with our faculty to integrate the library experience with our classroom curriculum. Our library program plays an important role in instilling a love for reading in our children, introducing them to a wide range of genres, and developing their preliteracy skills, and it is a cozy and inviting place to visit and settle in with a good book to read!
Building with wooden unit blocks is a pivotal part of the preschool experience. When children build with blocks, they learn across a range of critically important subjects: language, literacy, social studies, math, and science, as well as develop skills that will have an impact on their approach to learning throughout their lives: collaboration with others, determination and focus, experimentation, problem solving, and resilience. Jean Schreiber, our block curriculum consultant, is a gifted early childhood educator with expertise in developing effective block programs. She visits our classrooms every month throughout the school year, building with teachers and children, and working closely with our faculty to enrich our block curriculum.
The children in our school have the opportunity to create and sustain “learning gardens” on our Second Floor Terrace and Roof with our Studio Teacher of Nature and Gardening, Stephanie Rose, as they explore the rich opportunities for “wondering” that the gardens and nature provoke. Throughout the year, children plant, tend, harvest, save seeds, cook, compost, and discover the connections that exist among Jewish holidays, values, and the life cycle of living things. The community garden spaces that all of the children in the school create and tend provide them with a hands-on connection to tikkun olam, as the children learn about one way in which they personally can care for the world by growing their own food and “eating local.”
This program is made possible through the generosity of the Rabin Garden and Tinker Fund.
Central Synagogue’s commitment to Jewish learning and values permeates daily life in the Nursery School. Jewish learning and exploration are a focal point of our curriculum and our children’s experiences in school. Our approach is three-fold. Children learn about Shabbat, the cycle of Jewish holidays throughout the year, and Jewish values, particularly tikkun olam, tzedakah, hachnasat orchim, and g’milut chasadim.
Every Friday, the entire school comes together in Beir Chapel for Shabbat B’yachad (Shabbat Together). Led by a member of our clergy, the children welcome Shabbat as a community with song, prayer, and blessings, preceded or followed by individual celebrations in each classroom. Parents take turns coming to school to join in their children’s classroom Shabbat observance, and accompany their children to Shabbat B’yachad on that day as well, a truly special Shabbat experience for parents and children alike.
Our children learn about Jewish holidays through meaningful interactive experiences that help bring them to life. Children learn the stories of the holidays and then can be found reenacting the stories in the dramatic play area, in the block corner, or even at the sand table. Books are read, holiday songs are sung, ritual objects and symbols of the holidays are explored and discussed. And of course, cooking is done in preparation for in-school celebrations. All of our teachers thoughtfully teach the children in their classes about their Jewish life in a dynamic, exciting, and authentic way.
In-school celebrations include a Chanukah party in each class, seders for both Tu BiSh’vat (a celebration of trees in Judaism) and Passover, a Purim parade, and a fantasy trip to key sites in Israel for Yom HaAtzma-ut, Israel’s Independence Day, including the Western Wall, Eilat, and a pretend shuk (open-air market).
Jewish values are at the core of our program, and it is our goal to help children understand them in tangible ways.
Children and families in the Nursery School participate in Central Synagogue’s tzedakah sandwich-making initiative for the homeless, taking part in the monthly rotation of volunteers within the synagogue who make and bag sandwiches.
Each class also collects money for tzedakah throughout the year, choosing organizations that hold meaning for the children to which they make donations.
Through a creative and environmentally-sensitive approach to art, children learn the meaning of tikkun olam. Pieces of “Beautiful Junk,” recyclable materials and found objects of all kinds, are collected by teachers, parents, children and Central Synagogue staff members for the children to use in their projects, sparking open-ended exploration and resulting in truly unique creations. As children engage in the process of collecting “Beautiful Junk,” they become aware of just how much gets thrown away, and they begin to realize how effective repurposing materials can be in protecting and caring for the environment.
Children also learn about taking care of the environment through our nature and gardening program, in which children plant seeds--often vegetables-- and provide them with nourishment and care until they are ready to be harvested and eaten.
Throughout the year, when guests visit our classrooms, children learn the importance of hachnasat orchim, welcoming guests, as they graciously welcome parents who come for Shabbat; clergy members who visit to tell a story, sing and play with the children, or celebrate a special holiday; and a wonderful group of synagogue members and staff who participate in our Nursery School reading program, volunteering their time to read aloud to the children in all of our Nursery School classes.
And of course, every day in every classroom we encourage children to treat their classmates and others with kindness, as they learn the meaning of g’milut chasadim, acts of loving kindness.
Through our rich Jewish curriculum, children embrace Judaism joyously and organically in a way that is very meaningful and real to them.
After school classes are offered for students who attend the Nursery School. Each class incorporates Jewish content by familiarizing children with Jewish stories, songs, and characters. Enrollment is on a semester by semester basis.
Each year, during the two weeks immediately following the last day of school in June, the Nursery School at Central Synagogue offers a two-week June School program for all of its current students. Parents may enroll their children for one or both weeks. Children come to June School dressed in their bathing suits so that they can enjoy water play in sprinklers and at the water tables on our second floor terrace and roof playground. They enjoy many engaging and fun activities, including sand and water play, sprinklers, block building, art activities, movement, music, science, yoga, Shabbat, special themed days, and more. June School is staffed by Central Synagogue Nursery School classroom teachers and specialists.
We have a very active Parents Association (PA), comprised of a number of parent volunteers who give generously of their time and work tirelessly on behalf of our school. Led by two co-chairs each year, and assisted by Class Parents and a number of committee chairs, the PA plans and sponsors our annual Book Fair and annual Nursery School benefit, as well as collaborates with the NS staff on the publication of a school newsletter; assists in the admissions process as welcome ambassadors; creates, markets, and sells Central Synagogue CentralWear, fun children’s clothing designed with our name and logo to promote school spirit; and sponsors a series of talks for parents, the CentralChat series, just to name a few of their many initiatives throughout the year. Becoming involved in the PA is a great way, not only to form friendships within the nursery school community, but also to spend time in the school and get to know the school better—maybe even to get a glimpse of your children during their school day. Along with committee chairs, the PA appoints Class Parents and Benefit Class Parents for each class every year.
Central Synagogue sponsors “Coffee Talks,” a number of workshops for parents throughout the year led by the director, members of the clergy, Central Synagogue staff, and special consultants to our school. At these informal discussion groups, specific topics are covered and parents are invited to bring questions. Topics include the exmissions process, Jewish parenting issues, and social and emotional, physical, and speech and language growth and development. Additional workshops are offered through the Parents Association.
Our Nursery School is staffed by a group of highly dedicated and creative educators who are passionate about early childhood and bring a wide range of experience, interests and special talents to their work with young children. All of our head teachers have master’s degrees in early childhood education, as do many of our associate and assistant teachers. Ongoing professional development is a priority for our school. Every year, our teachers participate in a number of workshops and conferences, as we strive always to grow as a faculty and bring cutting edge developments in early childhood education to our children.
In addition to our loving, gifted, and deeply committed classroom teachers, we are fortunate to have the expertise of specialist teachers and special consultants on our staff, including a music teacher, movement teacher, the Studio Teacher of Nature and Gardening, the science teacher for our three oldest classes, a block consultant who works with our teachers and children throughout the school year to enrich our block curriculum, and an occupational therapist, speech and language therapist, and Child Development Consultant, who are valuable resources for both teachers and parents.
Exmissions, the planning process for children when the time approaches for them to leave our school and go on to kindergarten, is a major priority for our school. During their time at Central, the director gets to know each child and family well, so that when the time comes to start planning the next steps in each child’s education, sound recommendations can be made. To begin the new exmissions season, the director holds an exmissions meeting each year in mid-March, followed by individual meetings with parents that continue throughout the process into the following fall and winter until placement decisions are made. Throughout the entire process, the director works closely with parents, advising them, supporting them, and helping them make decisions that are good ones for their children.
The admissions process at Central Synagogue is designed to be informative, welcoming, and a true reflection of our school and synagogue community. Starting on the day after Labor Day, the application for admission to the Nursery School for the 2015/2016 school year is available for parents to complete online. Once parents have completed the application and submitted it online along with a $60 application fee, the Nursery School office confirms via email that the application has been received; included in this email are instructions to arrange a tour of our school. Tours begin in October and run through November. Parents are asked to choose three dates and rank them in order of preference. We do our best to accommodate each family’s first choice. In that email, parents are also asked to attach a photograph of their child that we add to his or her application. The deadline for applications is November 1, 2014. Our classes cover a wide range of ages; in order to be eligible for admission to the Nursery School, children must turn two by September 15, 2015.
Each tour is conducted by the Nursery School Director and Assistant Director, who give a brief overview of our philosophy and curriculum, along with a description of some of the enrichment opportunities that we offer; in short, a flavor of our school. Parents also have an opportunity to learn about our welcoming Young Family Center, which includes Tot Shabbat, the Purim Carnival and other holiday celebrations for young children at Central Synagogue, whether they are students in the Nursery School or not; as well as the PJ Library program and a growing number of classes for children who haven’t yet reached nursery school age. Members of the clergy are on hand to greet prospective parents along with current Nursery School parents who speak about the Central Synagogue Nursery School experience from a parent’s point of view. And of course, parents have an opportunity to tour our classrooms, see what’s growing in the garden on our second floor terrace and roof, and watch the children at work and play in the classrooms and on the roof playground.
The Nursery School at Central Synagogue is a member of the Independent Schools Admissions Association of Greater New York (ISAAGNY); as such, we follow all guidelines and dates pertaining to the nursery school admissions process. One of the programs offered by ISAAGNY schools is the opportunity to participate in an early notification program. Members in good standing of Central Synagogue are asked if they would like to be notified whether or not their child has been accepted to our school earlier than the general applicant pool. Under normal circumstances, priority is given to current sibling families, Synagogue members and alumni/legacy children whose families have maintained active membership.
In mid-November/early December, we begin to schedule play visits for applicants, beginning with those who have decided to participate in early notification. Play visits take place in December and January. We make every effort to group children who are close in age. Play visits typically last for half an hour. Because we have many children to see, we ask parents to be as accommodating to our schedule as possible. Our goal is to meet the children in groups of manageable size so that the children feel as comfortable as possible!
Please click here for an application.
Financial aid is available.
Click here to download a Financial Aid application.
Admissions notification letters, per ISAAGNY guidelines, will be sent via email on February 26, 2015.