The Bernard Zell Early Childhood program lays the foundation for lifelong learning in a nurturing, play-based, Reggio-inspired environment. Our focus on developmentally appropriate practice offers children the opportunity to develop their creativity and critical thinking in an engaging and joyful environment.
Our classrooms are safe places where students feel comfortable taking risks and delving into topics that are meaningful and of interest to them. Emotionally responsive teachers spend time observing student engagement and conversations and use this information to provide opportunities to help deepen children's understandings and test their hypotheses. We emphasize foundational learning, both intellectual and social-emotional, that will be the building blocks of each student’s educational experience at Bernard Zell.
Judaism is a fundamental part of our program, as it is for all Bernard Zell classes. We help children build a positive identity by threading Jewish values, lessons and spoken word throughout their experience. These include the ideas of Gemilut Chasadim (acts of kindness) and Kavod (respect and appreciation for others and gratitude for what we have).The entirety of our Early Childhood program takes place in classrooms meant to inspire and to be an extension of your homes with an emphasis on natural materials, a sense of tranquility and calm, and the ongoing involvement of the family of every child.Throughout their time in our Early Childhood program, our students are finding ways to interpret the experiences of their own lives.
Abby Aloni
Head of Early Childhood

What's Happening in Early Childhood 2020-2021

JK103 Designs and Presents: The Calm Courtyard
Riva Cohen, Early Childhood Teacher

This year JK 103 decided to turn the small courtyard attached to the classroom into a usable space. The students planted greenery, built IKEA planters, created a reading area and added an ivy wall. They voted on different names for the courtyard and the name that received the most votes was, "The Calm Courtyard."

Video: It's Raining Pizza! Call 1-800-JKPIZZA for Tonight's Specials
Ashley Igloo, JK103 Teacher

Ever the entrepreneurs, JK103 students opened their very own pizza restaurant and claim to have the cheesiest pizza in Chicago! Their marketing team (an awesome parent in their class) put together an amazing commercial for you to enjoy. 

JK104 Enrolls in Coding101
Marthe Spizman, Junior Kindergarten Teacher

Students in JK104 were recently introduced to our Kebo Robots last week and have really enjoyed using them! The robots teach coding to young children through sounds and commands.

SK Prepares for Shavuot!
Andrea Raskin, SK Teacher

Senior kindergarten students are busy preparing for the holiday of Shavuot! One of the main themes of Shavuot is celebrating receiving the Torah from G-d at Mt. Sinai. The importance of the Torah is emphasized each week as we learn about the Torah portion or Parasha.

jBaby Chicago at Bernard Zell: This Wednesday!
Rebecca Bloom, Admissions Associate

We look forward to welcoming you to jBaby Chicago's Be Curious: Toddlers and Teva class at Bernard Zell, beginning Wednesday, May 5 and running through Wednesday, May 25, each week at 4:00 p.m. We are excited to meet you and your children. Open to all toddlers 0-36 months. Click 'read more' for more details and to sign-up.

Early Childhood Summer Camp at Bernard Zell
Tami Mizrachi, Nursery Teacher

Led by teachers from our school and open to all children entering Nursery, Junior Kindergarten and Senior Kindergarten, we can't wait to welcome our youngest learners to camp for a summer of exploration and fun!

JK105 Zoologists Inspect & Illustrate  Animals & Wildlife
Mara Rubin, Junior Kindergarten Teacher

A few months ago an interest in animals was sparked in JK105 as they were playing with toy animals. As teachers started to share a few facts about each animal, the students were very engrossed with the factual information and continued to want to learn more. 

JK Incorporates City Lights Using Simple Circuits
Lindsey Elliott, Junior Kindergarten Teacher

Using simple circuits, Junior Kindergarten students built the city of "Cornville," labeled streets, buildings, created hot air balloons (hanging from above) and today are adding lights to their city design.

The Art of Appreciating Art in Nursery
Nursery A & B Teachers

In preparation for the holiday of Tu B'Shevat, a celebration of the trees, the Nursery students were introduced to the famous Tree Of Life painting by artist Gustav Klimt. Through the Visual Thinking Strategy approach, they looked closely and examined the artwork on the big screen and shared what they noticed and other observations.

Early Childhood Summer Camp at Bernard Zell
Tami Mizrachi, Nursery Teacher

Led by teachers from our school and open to all children entering Nursery, Junior Kindergarten and Senior Kindergarten, we can't wait to welcome our youngest learners to camp for a summer of exploration and fun!

100 Days of SK110!
Emily Raisher, SK Teacher

Students in SK 110 have been preparing all year for the monumental celebration of the 100th day of school. They have mastered their letter sounds with daily Fundations practice, solidified number recognition through the Investigations program, immersed themselves in thematic units related to the city of Chicago and the rainforest and so much more! 

A Message from Abby Aloni, Head of Early Childhood: February 24
Abby Aloni, Head of Early Childhood

Did you realize that your children are engaging in daily experiences that build the underlying dispositions and knowledge to help them succeed in our Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) driven economy and world? In technical early childhood terms, we call this play! 

JK Meets New Pals, DeShawn, Rahma and Antonio!
Riva Cohen & Ashley Iglow, JK Teachers

As part of their Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion curriculum in Junior Kindergarten, students have been introduced to Persona Dolls in each JK classroom. They are large, almost life size dolls, which serve as a tool for helping children strengthen their developing skills for getting along with each other, working out conflicts and making friends. They also help them learn to be comfortable with all kinds of differences. Each doll has a different story, background and skin tone.

A Message from Abby Aloni: January 27
Abby Aloni, Head of Early Childhood

Within our curriculum, this big Jewish idea of the earth as a natural wonder and the practice of blessing natural phenomena is front and center. Even though our ancestors from biblical times were more apt to experience warmer temperatures, and snow was probably very rare, we know in modern times it can happen once in a while.

JK Students Show Their Gratitude & Appreciation for Trees
Ashley Iglow & Marthe Spizman, JK Teachers

Students in Junior Kindergarten classes have been discussing the importance of trees, what they provide for us and why we are so thankful for them. All three of the classes went outside to look at the trees outside of our school along Grace Street. Each class chose a tree and gave the tree a hug to show their love and appreciation for it! 

SK107 Builds Strong Friendships with New Friends in Oakland, CA!
Marisa Fujinaka & Julie Gelfond, JK107 Teachers

BZ Senior Kindergarteners have made new west coast friends! At the beginning of the school year, students “met” a Kindergarten class at Laurel Elementary School in Oakland, California via Zoom. Since then, the students have been regularly meeting throughout the year and are learning so much about their new friends.

Jori Wineburgh, Nursery Teacher

During the holiday of Hanukkah, the Nursery students studied light, shadow, oil, being a helper and the concept of bravery and power. They cooked latkes in oil, created masterpieces using liquid watercolors and oil as well as drew Hannukiot using metallic markers during observational drawing

JK (and JK Parents) Perfect the Art of Distance Learning!
Lindsey Elliot & Marthe Spizman, JK104 Teachers

Our Junior Kindergarten classes just wrapped up their third day of distance learning! If JK teachers learned anything from last year’s virtual learning, it’s that connection is so important with the students, both in-school and while at home.

A Message from Abby Aloni: December 2, 2020
Abby Aloni, Head of Early Childhood

As the weather grows colder and the end of the year approaches, we thought we would provide you with an activity guide. While these activities are certainly fun and provide wonderful opportunities for families to engage together and young children to explore independently, they also support many early learning goals!

SK107 Furthers Their Understanding of Identity and Race
Rachel Ahitow & Kaitlyn McKenna, SK108 Teachers

To further their understanding of identity and race, SK108 students read the book Let’s Talk about Race. In this book, the author shares his own story as he explores what makes each of us special. This book helps children learn, grow, discuss and begin to create a future that resolves conflict over racial differences.

Early Childhood Paparazzi Catch Ms. Aloni in Action
Rena Grosser, Early Childhood Teacher

Early Childhood students extended their camera unit and made their own cameras made out of recycled items. Enjoy the photos below of our youngest paparazzos catching Head of Early Childhood, Ms. Aloni!

Senior Kindergarten Explores Musical Instruments
Charki Dunn, Music Teacher

Senior Kindergarteners learned to dance with their scarves to music by Prokofiev, Brahms, Satie and others. They also practiced clapping patterns and dance moves to a rap by John Jacobson called Play Fair. Check out the pictures below of SK enjoying explorations in music! 

JK105 Learns More About Babies to Enhance Their Imaginative Play
Sheila Schraber, Early Childhood Teacher

The class discussed what they already knew about babies, which was quite a bit. They mentioned how babies wear diapers, they can't talk, they drink milk and some even knew that they have soft heads and are very delicate. JK105 looks forward to learning more about why the baby's head is soft, how much babies sleep, how to take care of a baby and what kind of toys babies like.

Early Childhood is Awarded Microgrant from JUF
Abby Aloni, Head of Early Childhood

The Early Childhood team is excited to share that they are the recipients of a $3,000 Inclusion Initiative Microgrant from The Jewish United Fund. Their original idea was to create an Early Childhood focused sensory room that supported the needs of our very youngest students. With this unique year, we have pivoted to creating a sensory lending library and will have it up and running by the beginning of the new year.

Early Childhood Continues to Reimagine Family Events
Abby Aloni, Head of Early Childhood

I hope those of you who joined us for last Friday's Bring Your Morning Brew with Mr. Weisserman enjoyed the opportunity to virtually pop into our Early Childhood classrooms. Engaging our parents, grandparents and special friends is essential to who we are as a community and although this year does not allow us to invite you in as we usually would do, it has given us the opportunity to think outside the box to ensure you still feel connected!

How Nursery Builds Community Beyond the Distance                                        
Rena Grosser, Early Childhood Teacher

This year began differently than any other as the two Nursery classrooms have been divided for the first time. In past years, the Nursery students would explore throughout the Nursery suite weaving both classrooms together and being able to engage daily. This year, a window was installed between the classrooms, allowing the students to observe each other’s play, while also making unique connections.

A Message from Abby Aloni, Head of Early Childhood: September 23, 2020
Abby Aloni, Head of Early Childhood

We have had the most wonderful first few weeks with your children! It has truly filled my heart to be with them every day. I have always believed in the competency of young children, but this year has proven so much about our Early Childhood students' resilience, their ability to do more than we think they can and their innate love for learning. You should be proud!