Helen Cohen, Director of The Frances Jacobson Early Childhood Center (FJECC) at Temple Israel in Boston, and her staff are passionate about teaching their young students the important value of helping others by participating in many acts of kindness both inside and outside of the school. Because Cohen feels strongly that concrete learning is a powerful tool, the FJECC teachers are committed to integrating a wide variety of mitzvah opportunities (good deeds) throughout their curriculum. Various acts of kindness are emphasized on a daily basis in an effort to teach children the importance of helping others. These deeds, first modeled by the teachers and then applied by the children, are commonly observed in the classroom and include everything from young learners helping a classmate fasten a smock to someone assisting a peer during clean-up time. In addition to reminding children that these small deeds help the classroom community in big ways, teachers also cleverly create ways for these young children to experience firsthand the ways in which their acts of kindness can help the greater Boston community. This is accomplished through classroom recycling projects, toy collections and food drives. From the youngest group of toddlers to the soon-to-be graduates, all children learn the important value of helping others through the various charitable works they perform during their pre-school experience. The teaching of this value is an important and meaningful component of the school’s curriculum.
Students in The Red Room class counted the pennies and other coins they brought to school each Friday for charity and decided to use the money to buy toiletries for people in need. A specific dollar amount was distributed to each family, and parents were encouraged to take their child to purchase the toiletries which were subsequently donated to the Brookline Food Pantry. The children, along with their parents, sorted and stocked the various items before returning to school. The pride the children felt in “teaching" their families the importance of participating in this worthy project and their understanding of what a profound impact their acts of kindness would have on the people at the food pantry was reflected through the smiles on their happy faces.
Another group in the school sponsored a walk-a-thon in which the proceeds went to “Seeds of Peace.” They so enjoyed walking the many laps and stopping at the water station that was set up for them but, most importantly, they loved experiencingthe pride that comes from giving of oneself on behalf of others.
FJECC parents organized a school-wide initiative to meet and entertain the residents at The Hebrew Senior Life Center in Brookline. The activities in which the students participated ranged from playing Bingo with the residents to beautifying the residential environment by planting bulbs and flowers in window boxes. The morning concluded with a sing-a-long. All of the students came away with a memorable experience that they will not soon forget.
Most recently the students in our T-K and kindergarten class spent a great deal of their choice time creating bracelets which were subsequently sold to raise funds for diabetes research in honor of one of their peers who is dealing with this medical issue. The children developed signs which were posted throughout our building to encourage sales for this worthy cause. Not only did our students learn important lessons during this process but their peer who is dealing with diabetes was made to feel so special and proud that all were working to be of assistance to the many children dealing with this condition.
The FJECC’s dedicated educators hope that by creating a curriculum that focuses on the important value of helping others through small acts of kindness within the classroom, to mitzvah opportunities in the larger community, they can instill in their students the important lesson that helping others is important and good. By routinely exposing our students to the many ways in which they can be of help to others, this behavior will become second nature for them. Our hope is that the FJECC students will utilize the lessons they have learned for the benefit of others throughout their lives. This is an important foundation we are establishing for our youngest set!