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February 10, 2011 - Image 12

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2011-02-10

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0 R N

Learning The Ropes from page 11

"There's a reason for everything we do,"
says school director Marsha Mitnick as
she and Ben Toby, 3, of West Bloomfield
lead the way back to class.

in education, loves how the school has
helped Kendell unfold. "They are so clearly
focused on every aspect of the child.
"Little things," Schultz says:' like how
Marsha gets right down on the floor to be
eye to eye with the child, are so important.
"There's a lot of really neat philoso-
phy behind what they do:' says the West
Bloomfield mother of two, and clearly a
lot of love."

Emphasizing Process
Process is all-important, Mitnick says, as

the children line up along an extended
rope, which they hold on to as they follow
one another into the gymnasium.
Forming a line is too abstract for this
age group, Mitnick says. "I had to educate
my teachers, too."
"This is what some would call getting
your sillies out:' says Mitnick as the pre-
schoolers march, jump and crawl on the
floor to assistant teacher Ashley Goldberg's
drumbeat. "We call it working both sides
of the brain. We're working on getting
them to that calm, alert place
They move with the rope to another
venue to celebrate Shabbat with 'Rabbi
Mike' and Shir Shalom's weekend musician
in residence, Jewish rock musician Dan
Nichols who is in from North Carolina.
Mitnick is delighted when Nichols sings
a song about a scary monster. "It's another
way in which they learn to master their
world. You can't say there aren't scary
things out there."
"I love what they do with Shabbat," says
Jamie Blank, a former middle school math
teacher who shopped a lot of preschools
before settling on the Learning Center for
3-year-old Ari.
Blank's family hasn't yet affiliated with
a congregation, but she says: "Something


February 10 2011

that's very important to me and my hus-
band is that the rabbis are accessible, fun
and want to be with the kids."
A Jewish preschool "may be the first
time a young family is entering the Jewish
community," says Jeffrey Lasday, who
directs Jewish Federation of Metropolitan
Detroit's Alliance for Jewish Education
based in Bloomfield Township.
"This is the first time for the Jewish
community to respond to that need
and for them [the parents] to see all the
resources and support that are there for
them:' he says.
"The competition isn't among the vari-
ous Jewish early childhood programs:'
Lasday says. "The competition is the non-
Jewish early childhood programs."
"I find that the Learning Center is a
really good match for my son:' says Blank,
who recently moved back to Bloomfield
Township where she grew up. "I appreciate
that they take the time to understand Ari's
thinking process and his interest levels."
Each day, she says, "He just runs right in
and can't wait to go."

Life At The Corners

Judith Doner Berne
Special to the Jewish News

year and a half after opening, The Corners has only partially realized
its mission as a gathering place for nonprofit organizations working
together to provide community services.
The Corners, which occupies the site of the former Walnut Lake
Elementary School at 2075 Walnut Lake Road in West Bloomfield, is the
brainchild of Temple Shir Shalom's founding rabbi, Dannel Schwartz.
But it is a separate nonprofit entity with its own board of directors, says
Andre Douville, chief operating officer. "We raised money through donations
and a bank loan," says Douville, who has been Shir Shalom's executive direc-
tor for the past eight years.
"It's unique in our area — and nationally," he says.
Schwartz's plan was three-fold: build to house all their religious students
under one roof; open a preschool; give back to the community by offering
nonprofits an opportunity to locate their offices and/or to lease available
space by the hour or the day for larger events at less than commercial rates.
Currently, the religious school meets there on Sundays. The preschool is
up and growing. (See lead story.) And they count five nonprofits who have
signed on as partners in addition to Shir Shalom. They are: the Asthma
and Allergy Foundation of America, Michigan Chapter; Brighton Hospital;
the Building Industry Association of Southeastern Michigan; Walnut Lake
Preschool (for children who need specialized and individual attention) and
Playground Politics
West Bloomfield Parks and Recreation.
"There's a reason for everything we do:'
The Corners also hosts Relay for Life chapter meetings, Alcoholics
says Mitnick.
Anonymous, Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit and Michigan Board of
And that includes designing a play-
Rabbis meetings, yoga classes and a variety of conferences, workshops and
ground that doesn't dictate how children
seminars, just to name a few, Douville says.
play. The long, narrow space was devel-
"Some we do for free because it's part of our
oped as an organic combination of tun-
mission. We truly are a multi-tenant, nonprofit con-
For more information
nels, hills and boxes of sand, with a teepee
ference center."
on the Corners,
and artist's easel as quieter venues. In
But to be successful, Douville says, they must
go to its website at
good weather, a garden becomes an out-
gather more nonprofits into the fold. "There is no
thecorners.org .
door classroom. "We want the kids to have
manual for what we do here. We consider our ten-
an effect on their play:' Mitnick says. "Even
ants to be our partners. We hold synergy meetings
out on the playground, they may need a
once a month. We brainstorm ideas on how we can help one another.
quiet place."
"We hear we're the best-kept secret in town," says the West Bloomfield
For the teachers, this isn't down time.
husband and father of three. "It seems to be a hard model to comprehend."
"They're helping in play-
One who does is Kathleen Slonager, executive
ground politics. It's the best
director of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation's
place to learn social skills."
Michigan chapter, who was among the first to
This is Goldberg's first year
move her office into the Corners. Her agency
as an assistant teacher. "It's
presents educational and training programs for
my calling. I just love kids:'
children, families, teachers, school staff, childcare
says the Farmington Hills
providers, healthcare professionals and workplac-
resident who has a master's
es. "It's probably the best thing that every hap-
degree in clinical psychology.
pened to us," says Slonager. "
"Here, we get to connect
She had space she was paying for, but didn't uti-
with each child individually.
lize on a daily basis.
We meet each kid where they
"I saw an article about a new concept for non-
are and they bring in ideas."
I thought. 'Is it in New York, California?"
"It's my calling," says first-year
In January, when students
believe it when she learned it was
assistant teacher Ashley Goldberg as she
were learning about Tu
and actually within walking dis-
b'Shevat, they were surprised sets the beat for the school day to come. tance of her West Bloomfield home. "It's a step up
to learn that paper comes
in the world," Slonager says. "We can have pro-
from trees, Goldberg says. "So we're going
gramming right here whether it's a board meeting or a large conference.
to make paper."
"How big it is, how small it is, depends on what you need. It's very handy
"You might think the three R's are read-
and cost effective."
ing, writing and arithmetic:' says Mitnick.
"The Corners is getting known and being used more and more productive-
But, says Moskowitz, what we need to
ly," says Shir Shalom Rabbi Michael Moskowitz. "We've learned a great deal
accomplish those are "rhythm, ritual and
in the process." LI

reverence I


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