Photo caption: Knowledge of what is recyclable and what is not is transmitted through dialogue as Josh Rifkin, our Teva and Tech Specialist, leads the Eagle class down the hallway – collecting recycled material to be placed in our community’s recycling bin.


Sustainability and Children Making a Difference

We start the new school year with a heavy focus on Tikkun Olam, a Jewish lens that reminds us of humanity’s responsibility to repair the world. At the JCC Early Learning School, we believe that children are never too young to be a part of the solution when it comes to sustainability and that we have a tangible opportunity to learn together when it comes to recycling and repurposing materials.

Our commitment to sustainability will not only go a long way in establishing lifelong habits at an early age but will also give children opportunities to practice both the pre-mathematical skills of sorting and the early literacy skills that will come from searching packaging for recycling symbols and creating appropriate signage for our bins. This is also a great opportunity to engage children in reflective discussions and perspective shifting that are essential in leading children to understand the interconnectedness of all species.

Teva and Technology Specialist
*Teva: nature in Hebrew

The position of the Teva and Tech Specialist was designed to nurture and encourage the relationship between young children and the natural world with the hopes of inspiring the next generation of stewards. The Teva and Tech Specialist leads children in caring for the garden spaces, facilitates inquiry-based discussions, helps bridge the disconnect those children have with their food and encourages children to look through a sustainability lens.

The technology part of the position was born out of the lessons educators learned during lockdown and later applied to in-person learning. The JCC Early Learning School believes that developmentally appropriate applications of technology can support story acting, expand play, develop partnerships with families, foster intergenerational experiences, open windows to near and far off places, offer alternative perspectives and provide children an opportunity for reflection.

In both parts of this role the Teva and Technology Specialist collaborates with classroom teachers and children to design intentional learning experiences that incorporate the principles of seamless Judaism, 21st Century learning, and developmentally appropriate practices.

Josh Rifkin Bio:
Hello, my name is Josh Rifkin and I’m happy to be returning to the JCC for my 11th year as an educator. Last December I completed my Director’s Certificate and this year I will come to the end of a 3-year fellowship with the Sheva Learning Institute. The fellowship has given me opportunities to study excellence in early learning around the world and a platform to think and collaborate with educators working across the country in other JCCs.

This year I am excited to take on a new position as the school’s Teva and Technology Specialist. I look forward to collaborating with teachers by imagining ways we can deepen children’s connection to the natural world and to explore developmentally appropriate ways of integrating technology with hands-on experiences.

When I’m not at school, I’m looking for ways to get out into nature with my wife who is also an educator and my two boys who are 10 and 5. It is my privilege to join you at this special time in your lives and to share in some of the magic and wonderment that will come with watching your children grow at the JCC.

Here is an article written about the work we do in the garden at JCC ELS: