Going green at ‘0: A preschool adapts to changes

Going green at ‘0: A preschool adapts to changes

When the Barnert Temple preschool class of 1989 is invited back to the June ‘009 Preschool graduation next year, the members are apt to see many changes. Thanks to longtime congregant Susan Sauer, the Franklin Lakes synagogue now features the Nana Cele Outdoor Classroom, which will have a butterfly garden, hummingbird garden, pizza garden, and greenhouse.

"Nearing our ‘0th anniversary, we looked into what we offered and how we could change…. There is so much talk about going green. We decided to translate this into ‘Going Green at ‘0,’" explained Sara Losch, who founded the Barnert Temple preschool ‘0 years ago and who has also been religious school principal for 13 years.

The 4- and 5-year-old class at Barnert Temple Preschool and Family Center made salad dressing using herbs they grew for their preschool Earth Day picnic. From left are Sara Lidsky, Ben Weinberger, Grant Sloan, Elizabeth Esterow, and Claire Sullivan. Photos courtesy of Barnert Temple

"There are many challenges young people face living in the new millennium. When we have students for only a few essential hours, we want to make the most out of those hours. We wanted something hands-on," Losch explained, and that’s how "Going Green at ‘0" took root.

The multifaceted program, designed to educate students and their families, began last month — in conjunction with "Earth Week" — with a tip (printed on plantable paper) going home each day with students. Among them were reminders to recycle water bottles and make lunch garbage-free.

Students will grow tomatoes, oregano, and basil outdoors in the warm weather and in the greenhouse come winter. They will learn how to compost, as well.

Losch, who lives in Wyckoff, noted that the preschool’s full name is the Barnert Temple Preschool and Family Center. That’s because the synagogue is committed to educating the whole family, not just preschoolers but also their parents, siblings, and grandparents, Losch said. It’s her goal as an educator to bring families into the mix.

Over the ‘8 years since she became an educator, Losch said, she has seen a deepening familial commitment to social action, for example. "Families help out in homeless shelters, donate clothing and children’s items, make meals for each other when in need, and are more sensitive to each other’s needs then ever before," she noted. Also, she pointed out, the Reform movement has become more traditional, encouraging the learning and use of Hebrew, holiday observance, family learning, and living Jewishly at home.

But she has seen negative trends as well. "Parents seem more stressed and worried than ever before," she said. They feel that their "kids must have the best skills, best college, best camp. With the advent and proliferation of technology, kids expect everything to be bells and whistles; they can’t just sit for a lesson. They are exposed to things at a much younger age on the Internet, television, in the movies, and in books. Kids are being rushed to sports, birthday parties, camps, and there is a higher incidence of anxiety and depression. I once asked a parent," she recalled, "’Do you ever have time to laugh as a family?’" The answer was, "Who has time?"

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