At Lamplighters preschool, children are the main initiators of the learning process.
Like anything of importance to the care and development of toddlers, preplanning is not to be taken lightly. Preplanning a preschool even more. So, with many requests, along with Mushky Glitsenstein’s strong desire to open a full-time early childhood education center, the Lamplighters preschool at the Royal Oak Chabad Center was born.
Glitsenstein, the preschool’s executive director, envisioned a place that would instill in its children the knowledge of their inherent value. A preschool that is more like a family, a giant hug, a community where parents support each other and celebrate.
“When building this school, I knew one thing: I wanted to help our parents raise children who are filled with a sense of worth and happiness,” she said. “It’s important to us to give our children an organic sense of understanding how important and valuable they are.”
In pursuit of ensuring a high-quality education with a priority for creating a warm, welcoming and communicative environment for parents, Jamie Gans was recruited to join the Lamplighters team as director of education. Jamie, originally from Franklin, has her master’s in early childhood education and special ed, and spent 10 years teaching in preschools in Manhattan. If asked, Jaime will tell you she has a strong belief in Lamplighters’ style of individualized education, and that she loves her students as if they were her own kids.
Drawing from the best practices in early childhood education, and with specific inspiration from the Reggio Emilia philosophy, children will learn through an innovative, inquiry-based, hands-on curriculum where they actively participate in the learning process.
The Reggio approach isn’t a linear and predetermined curricular progression, and there are no international training courses to become a Reggio teacher. Creating a Reggio style takes careful consideration of how learning methods, environmental aspects and relationships interact together to form the basis of learning.
At Lamplighters, children are the main initiators of the learning process. They are inspired by their own interest to know and learn and, as such, are endowed with a uniquely individualistic understanding of how to construct learning on their own. In other words, children should be treated as active collaborators in their education, as opposed to passive observers.
In addition, Lamplighters is unwavering in the belief that parental involvement is critical to the creation of a learning community for children.
When it comes to Jewish learning, “Lamplighters’ main goal is to give our children the most positive, exciting, delicious and fun Jewish experience,” Glitsenstein says. “When they think of their Judaism, we don’t want the first things to come to mind being a 10-hour-long seder or breaking their teeth over their Torah portion.
“When they think about the most enjoyable part of their lives, we want them to think of their Judaism. Something that is so important to us is to give our children the ‘whys.’ Why do we drink four cups of wine? Why do we celebrate Shavuot? Why do we eat doughnuts on Chanukah?
“When they understand who they are and why they are doing the things they do, it gives them the confidence and the pride in their Jewish identity. It’s no longer something they just do to make their parents happy, but because they get it and understand its significance.”
Another key Lamplighters tenent is having the classroom environment act as the third teacher. A living organism, a place of shared relationships among the children, teachers and parents with the feeling of being in a world that’s alive, welcoming and authentic.
“Through the Reggio curriculum and the school’s physical environment, we are telling our children, you are not an empty vessel that we’re going to try to fill up with information — you are our source of knowledge. We’re going to dig deep. We’re going to make you question and find the answers from within you. Our bare walls, that’s for you to fill with your work. Our neutral, non-colored environment? Because you are our color!”
Lamplighters is currently accepting students ages 18 months to 3 years (with demand increasing, plans are being considered to extend the age range.)