Education & Curriculum
What makes your program distinctive?
Small class size, beautiful physical spaces, and a progressive attitude to how children learn all make for a unique educational experience. What we teach may be similar to other programs, but how we teach it is uniquely Zimmer. We incorporate project-based learning, which calls into play interdisciplinary skills. This methodology prepares children to think on their own and to learn how to learn. They analyze and evaluate and become confident and experienced learners, ready for whatever life has to offer. In our creative Judaics studies program, students learn values from the mitzvot, stories and traditions, building a sense of spirituality and meaning.
In Zimmer, I’ve noticed Montessori materials, Reggio-styled displays of children’s work, natural materials reminiscent of Waldorf, and – to top it off – you are a Jewish school as well! How do you blend this all?
Great observation! As educators, we have carefully considered the child’s stage of development and how the child learns best. We asked ourselves questions like: What are our goals for the children? What is the teacher’s role in education? What are the benefits of learning in social groups and of learning independently? What impact does the physical space, including the materials, have on the child? Should skills be built planfully, holistically, or a combination of both? How can the parents be synthesized in the school environment? How do we balance freedom and creativity with structure and discipline? We have found answers to these questions from the myriad thinkers in early childhood education, and from age-old Jewish wisdom.
We draw from each of the methodologies you mention, as each offers distinct and affective strategies to bring education to life.
What is your policy on discipline and conflict resolution?
Our goal is to help our children grown into empathetic and self-controlled human beings. Now is the time to begin building the lifelong skills of peaceful, equitable resolution. We use positive discipline approaches as it maximizes affectivity.
What we don’t do:
We do not "sermonize" at or talk down to the children
Children are not put in "time out”
We do not dole out rewards for good behaviors
Why we don’t do that:
“Time outs”, rebukes and sermons may increase the child’s tendency to simply tune out. While “bribes” or “threats” may seem easier for adults to extract from the children the desired behaviors, these practices only encourages the child to obey (at best!) for that moment. External strategies provide a short-term relief for the adult but they defeat the goal of a child integrating genuine attitudes of self-control and empathy.For children to make an internal shift in their behaviors, they need to have an opportunity to talk out their perspective of what went on, and be allowed to be part of the solution.
We recognize the behaviors that are “age and stage” specific, and also that children learn appropriate social behaviors at different rates. We anticipate the problems unique to preschoolers' social development and create an environment where each child can succeed.
We are clear in communicating right and wrong behavior, so that the children are keenly aware of expectations.
We teach appropriate behaviors through story, games and discussions. Learning these values in a theoretical state is easier for the child to assimilate than when emotions are running high.
In the event of an undesirable interaction, the teacher becomes an intermediary, helping the children discuss and resolve the issue. We put a child's brain to work. The process is not hurried. Language is concrete and clear. If necessary, teachers calm things down but do not take sides. They listen, echo children's concerns without judgment, may clarify issues, and have them seek appropriate solutions.
Does the curriculum prepare students for public school?
Absolutely! Not only do our children have good grasp of academic skills, they also learn how to learn. This is accomplished by learning skills in the context of what is interesting to the children, building an authentic foundation for literacy, math, science, creative, motor and social skills. Our children develop emotionally, acquiring skills for cooperation, responsibility, perseverance, positive relationships, and so on.
How will my child be assessed?
Teachers assess children in “real time”; as the children learn, the teachers are carefully monitoring and documenting their growth. Twice yearly, we map our records against a skills-development checklist.
Do you go outside everyday?
Yes, we certainly do! A core value of our school is our interconnectedness with nature, and the benefit of fresh air is enormous. As such, we go outside every day unless it is inappropriately cold and/or wet. In colder weather, we ask that parents to send gloves, boots and hats. Many children enjoy wearing layers so they can control their own body temperatures. In warmer weather, sunscreen is applied at home before school, and reapplied as needed during the school day.
Tell me about Zimmer’s staff…
All lead teachers meet or exceed the NJ licensing requirements. Many hold dual degrees in early childhood education and a related field. But our teachers have more than degrees, experience and training; each has a special knack for this important work of teaching children.
Of course, we check references and perform thorough background checks for all staff, including temporary staff.
What does your ongoing professional development look like?
Following our belief that teachers are learners too, we have bi-weekly staff meetings, and two full-day meetings embedded in our calendar. Together, we analyze and discuss, we plan and create. As a team, we celebrate the children and their education.
Health & Safety
What are the safety procedures you have in place?
We take security concerns very seriously. We have evacuation and emergency response systems in place, and conduct periodic fire/evacuation drills. Doors are locked at all times so that no strangers can enter the building, and children are only released to those whose names of listed on the release form signed by parents.
Our staff members hold certification in CPR and First Aid. In the event of an emergency, they will administer those skills appropriately.
How often do you clean the classrooms and toys?
To decrease the spread of illnesses and germs, general housekeeping chores are part of the classroom’s daily routine. Additionally, we employ a full-time professional cleaning person who does deep cleaning and toy sanitizing.
What’s your policy on potty training?
When the child’s body is physically ready, we work closely with the parents to toilet train the child in a consistent, natural, nurturing manner, using appropriate words for body functions. We celebrate successes and keep a positive upbeat attitude when the child has an “accident.” (Cloth diapers are welcomed, but per state regulations they will be bagged and sent home unwashed.)
Do the older children nap?
Children work hard as they play and learn. As per state regulation, children in PreK and younger, are offered a half hour rest and relaxation time. We provide a mat for each child, and a washable blanket and sheet is brought from home. The washables are sent home weekly. For children who don’t fall asleep, they use this time to relax (which is an important skill for children to learn in this noisy, busy, technological world they live in.)
What is your lunch/snack policy?
Children bring a dairy or vegetarian lunch and snack from home. Suggestions for food can be found in our Parent Handbook. As each family has its particular diet, children eat only their foods and do not share with one another. We stress nutrition, and encourage parents to send healthy foods only.
How do you accommodate food allergies?
We approach this on a class by class basis. If we are alerted of a food allergy, all parents in that classroom are made aware of the food limitations. Staff are trained in the administration of Epipens.
I love your school but I need day care hours…
To accommodate working parents, we offer extended care from 7am and until 6 pm that wraps around the base program. In addition, we have holiday care on many of the holidays that school is closed. This way, a family can get the best of both worlds!
Do you have a summer program?
Our 8-week summer program is based around arts and nature. Please click here for further details.
How do you handle snow days?
We follow Bernards Township’s lead as far as determining school closing or delayed openings. Parents can check the website or wait for our email which is sent out by 7am.
What is the application process for new students?
Parents visit the school, meet our Educational Director and see the classrooms. At that point, parents will be told of space availability. A space is secured once all the paperwork and registration fees are submitted. Before the year begins, children are invited for a private class visit; this eases the transition into the new experience for the child.
What are the payment options/procedures?
Our scholastic year is a 10-month program, and our summer program runs for 8-weeks with 2 week minimum enrollment. Parents are responsible for tuition from the first day of school through the last. School tuition can be paid in 10 equal payments, with the 1st month due upon registration. Parents who withdraw a child for an extended period of time (e.g. vacation) are still required to pay for the full term. All deposits, fees and tuition are non-refundable.
Parent Teacher Communication
Does the school have ways for parents to be involved?
We include many family events throughout the year; these serve as great opportunity to get to know other families at Zimmer and to see your child in action with their school friends. We offer these at different times of the day and different days so that working families have an opportunity to join us.
Parents are always welcome for lunch, birthdays or simply for visits. We also invite parents to share their talents, occupations or hobbies with us.
Our parents group, “Parents of Zimmer” (POZ) plans and organizes special events and fundraisers to support the program and staff.
What types/frequency of contact should I expect from my child's teacher?
Communication between the two cornerstones of a child’s life, home and school, is essential. To ensure that the pathways of communication are comfortable, we carve those paths on a regular basis. We reach out and share anecdotes about your child “just because.” And, in the event that we require a serious conversation, the teacher/parents relationship is trustworthy and solid.
Blogs and photographs are posted online and updated bi-monthly. Parent-teacher conferences are embedded into the school calendar and available upon request. Kindergarten receive written reports at this time, as well.
Can you put us in touch with a current Zimmer family?
A number of parents have offered to speak to incoming families or families considering our school. If you would like to be connected to one of them, please let us know.