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Preschool 2020-21: A Program Reimagined

At the Weinstein JCC, we believe that early childhood experiences lay the foundation for a lifetime. So we spend every day promoting the social, emotional, physical and intellectual development of each child.

Curious what a day in the life of a Weinstein JCC Preschooler looks like? Check out this video!

Preschool Registration 2020-21

After much thought, research, and planning, and in accordance with extended protocols and guidelines due to COVID-19, the Early Childhood Department will be offering a new Preschool model for this coming 2020-21 school year. We took this challenging time as an opportunity to rethink, reimagine, and revise some aspects of our program, and as a result the Weinstein JCC’s Early Childhood Department is excited to offer this new preschool program: 

Weinstein JCC Preschool Program for 2020-21 School Year 
Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.


  • 9.5 month program (Sept. 8 – June 14, 2021)
  • 12 month program (Sept. 8 – Aug. 27, 2021)
  • FEE: $1,750 per month

Beginning in September 2020, our NEW Preschool program will offer the following benefits:

  • LOWER staff/child ratios **New!
  • A full-day Preschool program with fewer transitions between classrooms **New!
  • Extended time for outdoor learning **New!
  • Enhanced pre-K classrooms for 4-5 year olds to support kindergarten readiness **New!
  • Highly qualified, nurturing, and dedicated educators and low turnover rates
  • Personalized, small group experiences for children
  • Ethical Start and Sheva Jewish Lenses (values-based learning)
  • Inclusive program with highly trained, dedicated support staff
  • Specialists: Garden Educator: Cat Cowan, Nature Educator: Patsy Glazer, Judaic Specialist: Dawn Kowal
  • Ongoing professional development for all faculty
  • Daily schedules organized to limit intermingling (due to COVID-19)
  • Enhanced Family Club opportunities to strengthen family/community connections
  • Playgrounds nationally certified by Nature Explore
  • Accredited by NAEYC since 1988
  • Thorough cleaning and sanitation mandated by state guidelines (due to COVID-19)

Due to current COVID-19 restrictions, we are limited to 110 enrollment spaces for the upcoming school year. We request that you if you are interested, please fill out your application and return it to Early Childhood Assistant Director Barbara Wise at ASAP, as limited spots are available.
For more information about this innovative and revised program, please read this letter from Donna Peters, EC Director
Thank you, and we look forward to seeing you and your children this September!


"We are so thrilled to have our 3-year old daughter attending childcare after a long break...It is not just a place to send her each day, it’s the enriching and important experiences she is gaining that we simply could not provide her at home. She is ecstatic to see her teachers and friends every single day, she runs to them without even looking back! Being able to socialize with her peers, learning about the outdoors, singing, and playing is exactly what she needs right now...I could not ask for anything more valuable for our child. We are so grateful for the entire staff at the JCC childcare program." -A Preschool Parent


How to Enroll:

Mail your completed forms to: 

Weinstein JCC
Attention: Erin Cole
5403 Monument Avenue
Richmond, VA 23226 

Please be sure to enclose the following with your registration papers:
1.  The registration form completed and signed (pages 8 and 9).

2.  The payment plan form with your preferred payment option selected and signed (pages 10 and 11).

3.  A non-refundable $225 registration fee.

*Please note, Weinstein JCC membership is a prerequisite for participation in the preschool program.

Scholarships are available on a limited basis. For information, contact Melissa Bunce at (804) 545-8658 or

The Weinstein JCC Early Childhood program is supported in part by: The Edward J. Becker Family Preschool Children's Endowment Fund, Margarete Hirsch & Suzanne Hirt Preschool Children's Endowment Fund and Dora L. Lewis Child Development Fund.

Alive with Imagination

Inspiration from the Reggio Emilia Approach goes into the very heart of our programs, we create experiences that shape not only children’s knowledge and skill, but also their attitudes about learning and intellectual curiosity. It’s a journey teachers and children take together, as teachers connect with their children’s interests and follow their lead. 

Our preschool program also provides a unique curriculum for the teaching of ethics to young children. An Ethical Start™ is based on the text of Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers), a classic Jewish text on ethics. With its focus on responsibility, dignity, kindness, community, tradition and respect, relevant teaching opportunities present themselves readily.

The Dora L. Lewis Family & Child Development Center offers fully licensed preschool programs serving children ages two through five. The preschool has been accredited by NAEYC since 1987. 

Interested in learning more about our program? Contact Early Childhood Director Donna Peters at 545-8617 or

Vision Statement

Guided by Jewish values, we aspire to create a joyful community where we honor the sacred relationships among children, educators, families and the natural world. In this community, we are all deserving of love and respect. We all have amazing potential for growth and learning. We connect to our sense of wonder and gratitude through the enduring relationships cultivated here. May we inspire one another to make the world better for this and future generations.

Garden & Outdoor Classrooms

At the Weinstein JCC, we believe that young children learn about their environment through direct and concrete experiences. To aid in this hands-on learning approach, we provide opportunities for exploration, discovery, experimentation and documentation within child-centered classrooms, both indoors and outdoors.

Through exposure to nature, a child’s observations and problem-solving skills are enhanced as they connect with the wonders of the natural world. Our Early Childhood program provides award-winning outdoor play spaces that cultivate imaginations and pretend play; offer hands-on experiences with sand, mud, water, dirt and flower and vegetable gardens; build visual-spatial skills; strengthen powers of observation; improve the ability to concentrate, and enhance motor skills such as coordination, balance and agility. A focus on health and wellness is promoted through our nature education, outdoor play and healthy food options.

The children will participate in gardening activities throughout the year; planting, weeding, harvesting, composting, tasting, plant identification, etc. Our Garden Educator will guide the children to explore, learn and respect the gardening process while teaching them the importance of sustainable gardening.

Our Edible Schoolyard

The Edible Schoolyard at the Weinstein JCC is a place where the whole center can go to learn, explore, eat and get dirty! We have 14 growing areas, including two raised beds with benches for easy sitting and gardening. Our gathering circle is made of boulders, and we gather there for class discussions and storytimes. Our greenhouse gives us the ability to get a head start on the seasons as well as a warm place to eat a snack and listen to the rain. It's the perfect place for a picnic and in-depth investigations.

We use the garden to produce food that the children eat during class lessons and in our snacks as well as donations to our on-site food pantry. We hold classes and volunteer days to involve the larger community, and we love seeing children showing their parents around the garden after they've been picked up from preschool or Kids' Place. Our Edible Schoolyard is a really special place, and we work very hard to care for it. We hope you'll come see for yourself how wonderful our garden space is!

Our Early Childhood Department is once again a Nationally-Certified Nature Explore Classroom!

We are pleased to announce that our Early Childhood Department has received its re-certification as a Nationally-Certified Nature Explore Classroom from the Nature Explore program, a division of Dimensions Educational Research Foundation. The re-certification has been a long process, and we are honored to once again be recognized!

An Ethical Start

An Ethical Start™ is based on the book “Pirkei Avot – Ethics of the Fathers." It is an educational program developed to teach Jewish ethics and values to preschoolers. An Ethical Start™ was developed by the Jewish Community Center Association, which was funded in part by the Steven Spielberg Righteous Persons Foundation. An Ethical Start™ is successfully integrated in all of the Center’s preschool classrooms.

The program is developed through exploration of the text, “Ethics of Our Fathers,” environmental enhancements, multi-media exploration through music, books, Peer K doll and the emergent curriculum, which integrates with our current early childhood philosophy.

This innovative program enhances and deepens family commitment to the learning and practice of ethics and values. The six areas of focus consist of the following values: responsibility, dignity, kindness, community, tradition and respect. An Ethical Start™ is a groundbreaking way of helping families and early childhood teachers study a classical text and develop a shared vocabulary for raising young children with a respect and understanding of ethics and values.

An Ethical Start™ program is based on an imaginative character, Peer K Explorer™, an animated character and three-dimensional doll, who is our children’s “guide,” just as Pirkei Avot is our guide to value-based teaching. The multi-media approach encourages interest and peaks learning. One of the best known teachings of Pirkei Avot is attributed to Rabbi Hillel, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And, if I am only for myself what am I? And, If not now, when?” Pirkei Avot 1:14. This mishna helps our children understand that they, and all other people, have innate worth simply by virtue of being human. Children can also be taught through exploration of this mishna that they have choices and that having free will involves taking responsibility for our actions, especially as those actions affect others. What an important concept for our children to understand!

Reggio Emilia Approach

The Weinstein JCC’s Early Childhood Department is inspired by the Reggio Emilia Approach. The Reggio Approach complements our beliefs in early childhood education. It allows us to explore curriculum methods which increase children’s creative and cognitive expression.

The basic premise of the Reggio Emilia Approach is a shared and deep belief in the strength of children’s potential for learning, exploring, and entering into relationships with their peers, teachers, and environment. Inherent in the premise is the expectation that children make hypotheses and discover connections and meanings among things and events of their daily lives.

Children have many languages for expressing and communicating. The Reggio Emilia Approach inspires us to provide the creative freedom for children to fully represent their ideas and to develop their thinking. An integral aspect in the Reggio Approach is the use of art. Art is inseparable from the rest of the curriculum, and in fact, is central to the educational process as a form of both exploration and expression.

The Reggio Approach –
Teachers and Children…Working and Learning Together
By: Donna Peters, Early Childhood Director

The Reggio Emilia Approach grows from the belief that children are rich, powerful people full of the desire and ability to grow up and construct their own knowledge. Stimulating interactions and many opportunities to communicate with one another and with caring, respectful adults help children to grow, develop and learn.


Weinstein JCC preschool teachers inspired by the Reggio Emilia philosophy consider creativity and learning part of the same process. When children actively and intently explore an object – a flower, a bird – they create their own knowledge. Like detectives, children pose questions, and then investigate to find answers. They use the many “languages” of art, words, movement, etc., to communicate their knowledge to themselves and others. Teachers act as resources to and researchers of the learning process by asking thought provoking questions, offering materials, and documenting children’s work.


Teachers routinely take notes and photographs and make recordings of group discussions and children’s play. Teachers use what they learn to plan activities that are truly based on children’s interests. By reviewing the documentation, teachers gain insights into children’s individual personalities and child development as a whole. Most importantly, they let each child know he or she is understood and accepted for who he / she is. This philosophy permeates every aspect of the program, including the use of space, teachers’ interactions with children, and curriculum decisions.


An integral piece of the curriculum is projects. Project work offers children and teachers opportunities to come together within the environment and deeply investigate children’s interests. Projects also support children’s natural impulse to investigate the world around them. Small or large groups, or an individual, work on projects, and these can last anywhere from a few days, weeks, to several months. Almost any interest that intrigues children can inspire a project. Project work encourages children to take initiative, assume responsibility, and make decisions and choices.


The teachers welcome new possibilities, unexpected ideas, and actively learning with the children. Teachers support children in their learning by encouraging, observing, and organizing their ideas, as well as supplying materials. At the beginning of a project, teachers do not know what direction it will take, but it is sure to include lots of discussion, graphic representation, and real cooperation among everyone involved. A child-centered approach helps children to feel pride in their own accomplishments and explorations. This in turn helps children to flourish and grow in their self-concept, social and learning skills.

For more information about the Reggio Emilia Approach, please go to our 2019-2020 Parent Manual.

For more information about our Early Childhood Program, contact Early Childhood Director Donna Peters at (804) 545-8617 or