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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!