Attention Members: Currently the Weinstein JCC remains CLOSED until we are directed by the medical and health authorities that it is safe to reopen. For all updates, please visit our COVID-19 page. For virtual resources, click here. Thank you for your patience, and stay safe!

Menu Quick Links

You belong here.

Preschool Program: Alive with Imagination

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.

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. 

Preschool classes meet two, three, or five days per week for two-year-olds, and five days per week for children ages three through five. Children attend preschool from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., and there is a 9:00 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. option in the pre-k classes for children who will be 4 years old by June 1, 2017. Children may also extend their day to enroll in early morning (7:30 to 9:00 a.m.) or afternoon (12:00 to 6:00 p.m.) childcare programs. Childcare programs are available one to five days per week.

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.

Preschool Registration

Registration for the Early Childhood Preschool Program will begin in early March with limited space available. Click here for the 2020-21 Preschool Application! Please make sure you enclose all necessary materials (application, registration fee and payment plan) so that we can process your application.

Preschool Registration 2020-21

Parents may turn in their registration materials to the Preschool Office during the appropriate sessions listed below. Make sure you include all necessary materials (application, payment plan and registration fee) so that your application can be processed. Your child cannot be enrolled without these items.

Session A  (Monday March 2 - Friday March 13) For currently enrolled preschool families only!

Session B (Monday, March 16 - Friday, March 20) after then, as space available. Registration is open to new students whose siblings are “graduates” of the Preschool, those children eligible during Session A, to new students whose families are Weinstein JCC members as of September 2019, children of Great Beginnings who have been enrolled since September 2019, and those currently enrolled in Camp Ganim 2020 4-week Sessions I and/or II (1 week mini-sessions not applicable).

Session C (Opens Monday, March 23 at 8:30am) Registration begins for all students who are NEW to our program. *Applications can be dropped off in the Preschool Lobby* Registration is divided into three sessions. If classrooms are full, we will add your name to our waitlist. All families will be contacted by April 10 to inform you of your enrollment status.

For more information please contact Donna Peters, EC Director at

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.

Parental Involvement: Participate in Your Child’s Education

We’ve found children in our programs do best with parental support, and at the Weinstein JCC we offer many ways for you to be involved.


What’s happening in your child’s classroom?

If you are a current Preschool parent, please speak to your child's teacher about how to access this wonderful tool!

Early Childhood Committee

The Early Childhood Committee is the parental representative arm of the Early Childhood Department. When your child attends preschool at the Weinstein JCC, you are eligible to be a member of the Early Childhood Committee whose members help guide the school in making policy decisions, reviewing standards, exploring new challenges and planning special events. The major goal of this important committee is the achievement and maintenance of the highest possible standards for preschool and childcare education and programming. Our parents’ input is greatly valued. The Early Childhood Committee (ECC) meets once a month in the evening. We value your participation!

The Parent Group Association

The Parent Group Association (PGA) is a branch of the ECC responsible for early childhood fundraising and community service projects. Its leadership coordinates activities which help the EC Department raise funds to enhance our facilities and programming. 

The PGA is comprised of parents of preschoolers, as well as Early Childhood directors. Programs and events such as weekly Shabbat, Challah sales, school photographs, the Hamantaschen Cafe, the Basket Extravaganza and the Plate Project are all examples of the responsibilities of the PGA. The PGA and Early Childhood Committee work closely together to provide enriching, high-quality experiences for our children. And it’s a great way to meet new friends, too. 

By getting involved, you’ll meet families like yours, and make your child’s experience a family affair.

Preschool Classes

We are offering the following classes for fall of 2019:

Springtime Jubilee

Join your friends at the Weinstein JCC for special days of springtime fun. Children will participate in a variety of exciting and creative preschool activities. Bring a non-meat, non-shellfish lunch; milk will be provided.


Growing Gardeners - Spring

Join Garden Education Specialist Cat Cowan in the Weinstein JCC Edible Schoolyard. Children will learn what plants need in order to grow, basic gardening tasks and how to use one’s senses in the garden. Children will be able to pick, taste and cook with items from the garden. Sign your child up for this fun opportunity to learn and play in the garden!


Great Beginnings - Spring

Great Beginnings is a playgroup for caregivers and children that provides a first-time group experience filled with recreational and educational activities. This is a wonderful introduction to the Weinstein JCC and all it has to offer! Join Carter as  she entertains and facilitates fun for you and your little one. Sing, play, dance and explore with your child, while both of you meet new friends.


Wee Little Arts - Spring

A preschool visual arts program dedicated to engaging and empowering children by helping them to discover the creative process based on four 8-week sessions: Elements of Art, Drawing, Painting and Three Dimensions. The same subjects are taught each year, but with different projects, so a student is not repeating projects, but learning is reinforced and added to with each class. Fundamental elements are introduced and the students apply these elements to their work. A variety of media are used to inspire experimentation. Both traditional and contemporary artists’ work is shown to expose the students to old and new ideas.


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 a Nationally-Certified Nature Explore Classroom for the second year in a row!

We are pleased to announce that our Early Childhood Department has received national recognition as a Certified Nature Explore Classroom from the Nature Explore program, a division of Dimensions Educational Research Foundation. The certification has been a long process, and we are honored to be the first program in Richmond to be recognized!

Enrichment Classes

As part of our Early Childhood program, the Weinstein JCC offers additional enrichment classes to stimulate your preschooler and to provide additional play and learning opportunities. Taught by our Early Childhood staff and other area specialists, our enrichment classes are engaging, fun and developmentally appropriate.

ENRICHMENT classes include Aquatics, Art, Fitness, Recreation, and Dance. Children must be ages 3+, toilet trained, and be able to follow age-appropriate directions. Children must meet the appropriate class age requirement by 10/31/19.

Click here to register your child for one of our Enrichment classes! 

Growing Gardeners - Spring

Join Garden Education Specialist Cat Cowan in the Weinstein JCC Edible Schoolyard. Children will learn what plants need in order to grow, basic gardening tasks and how to use one’s senses in the garden. Children will be able to pick, taste and cook with items from the garden. Sign your child up for this fun opportunity to learn and play in the garden!


Great Beginnings - Spring

Great Beginnings is a playgroup for caregivers and children that provides a first-time group experience filled with recreational and educational activities. This is a wonderful introduction to the Weinstein JCC and all it has to offer! Join Carter as  she entertains and facilitates fun for you and your little one. Sing, play, dance and explore with your child, while both of you meet new friends.


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