The Third Annual Early Childhood Jewish Education Conference: Science through a Jewish Lens

Education of Today’s Children Prepares Them for Tomorrow’s World

In a radically evolving world, where science, mathematics and technology are at the heart of that change, it is more than ever our duty to stimulate curiosity and engage children in taking an interest in their environment and the workings of nature. At the same time, it is very important to spiritually nourish and support them as they proceed on this journey.

The Third Annual Early Childhood Jewish Education Conference “Science through a Jewish Lens” was designed to inspire and equip educators working with young children in preschool, day school, supplementary schools and other educational settings. The sessions included a variety of topics woven together with Jewish and secular content to address today’s needs.

The conference took place October 2012, with more than 120 participants coming from 11 states and Israel. The conference was supported by CJP’s Day School Initiative and the Gelfand Charitable Family Trust, which supports STEM education nationally and internationally.

A Taste of Spiritual Learning and Science Exploration

With Rabbi Dr. Michael Shire, dean of the Shoolman Graduate School of Jewish Education, participants explored the methods of “Godly Play” to uncover the curiosity, imagination and sacred awareness of young children through the story of Creation. With Rabbi Alvan Kaunfer, director of Hebrew College’s Congregational Educational Initiative, they explored theoretical models based on Heschel’s notion of wonder and the use of the natural phenomena of light as an example. Dr. Ronit Ziv-Kreger, educational consultant for CJP, shared ways to enrich home ritual and Jewish practice with science.

Israel and Biblical Science and Nature Investigation

Our scholar in residence, Dr. Shai Shafir, head of the Nature & Science Education Department of Oranim Academic College, joined us from Israel. Based on the rich program developed by Oranim, Dr. Shafir shared the diverse natural seasons and habitats of Israel and their direct link to the Bible. Dr. Shafir also led two educational nature walks over the weekend leading to the conference.

Example of General STEM Workshops:

Shari Marlin, program coordinator for the Pima County Schools in Tucson, Arizona, introduced the habits and tools of systems thinking. Participants discovered ways to create their own opportunities to deepen the critical and creative thinking of their students.

Dr. Marina Bers of Tufts University presented an overview of developmentally appropriate technologies and curriculum for young children. With Dr. Bers, several early childhood educators shared their current use of technologies and programs in their classrooms.

Karen Worth, chair of the Elementary Education Department at Wheelock College, gave an overview of the elements of science teaching and learning with a focus on appropriate science content, the nature of scientific inquiry and scientific practices. In her session participants investigated the properties of water.

Conference In Review

Save the date for our Fourth Annual Early Childhood Jewish Education Conference:

  • Monday, October 28, 2013: 3 to 7 p.m. 
  • Tuesday, October 29, 2013: 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.


Our Participants

“My staff truly enjoyed the conference. It was a wonderful day with terrific workshops. In our staff meeting each teacher shared an idea that they are going to incorporate into their classrooms. We look forward to attending again next year.”

Heidi Baker, Director, Temple Beth Avodah Nursery School, Newton, MA

Our Presenters

“Thank you for welcoming me and The Discovery Museums to your conference. I was fascinated and interested in all of the sessions going on, and I have found myself talking about it to everyone I work with; I think many people here are wishing that they had the opportunity to attend! It is always great to be in a community of people so energized and excited about working with young children and talking about big ideas.”

Lucas Skorczeski, Director of Early Childhood Education and Parent Resources, The Discovery Museums, Acton, MA