Early Years

RHA's Nursery and JK-SK Program draws from world-leading approaches to Early Years education focused on placing the child at the centre of their learning.
Kids want a place where they can explore their world and express their creativity. Parents want nurturing educators who personalize the experience of their children throughout their journey as lifelong learners. RHA’s Early Years program is designed to apply best practices with substantiated research-based practices from around the world.  One of our primary sources of pedagogical inspiration is the Reggio Emilia philosophy.

What does this look like in the classroom? Students are exploring in small groups, critical thinking conversations are being explored, and differentiation is evident through small group learning. The classroom is the ‘third teacher’ bringing the outside environment to the classroom and providing provocations to enhance inquiry and exploration. Teaching that allows children to express themselves in a multitude of ways that are meaningful to them.

Our Early Years program fosters Jewish values and introduces the building blocks of Hebrew language learning and Judaic studies that are hallmarks of an RHA education. Students delight in celebrating holidays together and their Shabbat party is a highlight of every week.
RHA’s Approach to Early Years Education
At RHA, we believe that children are capable and curious individuals who thrive when they are active participants in their learning. When provided with the right tools and classroom environment, children become critical thinkers and problem solvers. We understand that there is a child developmental continuum and that all children grow and develop at their own pace. 

Our approach is based on the delight students find in making new discoveries while exploring themes and materials that ignite their interest and curiosity. Through investigation and questioning, a play-based learning model captures the students’ interest in topics relevant to their unique worldview while enhancing their skills. Through activities like growing a garden in their classroom, nurturing a pet fish or using materials to collaborate and build elaborate structures, students build their independence and collaboration skills to create, nurture and demonstrate responsibility. Numeracy, scientific inquiry and literacy are built into students' daily experiences with meaningful, engaging and developmentally appropriate experiences. 

All learning and experiences are set within the context of our caring, nurturing environment that focuses on building positive relationships with peers, teachers, the environment and our community. Focus on the social-emotional learning of every child based on where they are situated at any given time helps them move forward with steps towards social maturity, good decision making, self regulation and skills to work through situations that challenge them.

To learn through the lens of the outdoors and nature, Early Years students go on weekly neighbourhood walks to make observations about their environment, to question their surroundings and find ways to make a positive impacts on their community. RHA students make astute observations and have creative ideas on these walks about ways to make the world a better place.

Additionally, their observations lead to deep learning: from habitats for birds and insects to ways to make the environment cleaner so that everyone can enjoy the parks. The students have discussed real-world problems such as how to fix the cracks in the streets and why some cars drive through puddles and make big splashes while others do not. Listening to our students and engaging in deep conversations is a cornerstone of learning at RHA!

Our nurturing and supportive staff provide a learning setting that encourages and fosters early learning and balanced development for every student at RHA. Play is the cornerstone of our Early Years curriculum, as it is essential to the healthy social and cognitive development of children. Not only do we follow the Early Learning Framework that is set out by the Ministry of Education, we also enhance our learning with integration of Jewish holidays and traditions in meaningful ways.

What is Reggio Emilia?

In Reggio Emilia, children are active learners, driven by their own interests to know more. Born from a region in Italy over 50 years ago, the Reggio Emilia approach to pedagogy views the child as a collaborator and communicator and is considered by educators, psychologists and researchers to be the highest-quality approach to early childhood education in the world.

Then there is the classroom itself, considered the 'third teacher' in this model of education. Classrooms are living and changing systems. They are designed with natural light, order and beauty. They have open areas free of clutter as well as cozy nooks for small-group learning. They are filled with both single purpose toys and with 'loose parts,' authentic materials and tools that promote creativity and curiosity. We capture this learning and student exploration through an app called Seesaw to give you a personalized window into your child’s learning.

For more information, please contact Shira Unterman at 416-224-8737 ext. 137 or

Curriculum Overview

The balanced Early Years curriculum consists of six domains as outlined in the Ontario Ministry documents and is integrated with a special domain for Judaic Studies. Through a set of thematically linked instructional activities, each critical inquiry unit builds skills and conceptual understandings in these developmental domains.
  • Developing Successful Relationships, Self-Regulation and Well-Being
  • Belonging, Contributing and Celebrating Jewish Life
  • Demonstrating Literacy Behaviours
  • Demonstrating Mathematics Behaviours
  • Problem Solving, Exploring and Innovating
  • Health and Physical Activity
  • The Arts

List of 9 items.

  • Developing Successful Relationships, Self-Regulation and Well-Being

    Students discover their own strengths, interests and abilities while developing relationships with others. Children develop a sense of identity and positive self-image while developing independence and self-regulation strategies. Classroom teachers use various teaching methods to best meet the needs of the individual learner and students demonstrate a willingness to take responsibility in learning and other activities. Children develop social, personal and emotional skills as they learn to interact with others while demonstrating an awareness of health and safety practices and a basic awareness of their own well being. Students continue to develop their Jewish identity in the program with a focus on developing menschlichkeit (respect for others).
  • Belonging, Contributing and Celebrating Jewish Life

    The goal for the Early Years program at RHA is to develop a strong sense of Jewish identity with a feeling of pride and connection to their community. The students begin to develop Hebrew language skills so that they can experience and celebrate Jewish Life through the language of their ancestors and the language of the Israeli people. Through engaging experiences such as music, drama, dance and the visual arts, students make strong connections with their Jewish culture and the land of Israel. The program creates an inviting learning environment which engages all the senses, stimulates the child’s imagination and fosters a love of the Hebrew language. The children develop their literacy skills through activities based around the Judaic curriculum with an emphasis on the Jewish calendar, frequently used words and beginning alphabet letters and sounds.
  • Developing Literacy Behaviours

    Early Years students begin to explore their love of reading, writing and sharing ideas. Major themes and exciting critical thinking questions spark their curiosity and encourage them to follow their own interests. Students develop their communication skills by talking, listening and speaking to others for a variety of purposes and in a variety of contexts. Students begin to demonstrate an understanding and critical awareness of a variety of written materials through literature inquiry, learning centres and thematic units. Teachers plan learning activities that include phonological awareness skills which are critical emergent literacy skills, such as rhyming, building vocabulary, manipulating the sounds in words, answering questions, speaking in sentences, engaging in story retelling and experimenting with writing. Continuing into kindergarten, the children continue to develop their oral language and begin reading using a balanced literacy approach. Through read alouds, shared readings, guided readings and independent reading, students develop their reading skills and reading style. 
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  • Demonstrating Mathematics Behaviours

    Children come to school excited about learning how numbers work. They explore numeracy, measurement, geometry, patterning and collection of data in everyday situations while building a strong foundation in the fundamental skills so critical to being strong problem solvers. The math lessons become critical challenges as students are engaged in hands-on, language-based circle activities, tabletop and centre activities. The program is based upon the continuum of skills as outlined in the Ontario document and personalized for each child.
  • Problem Solving, Exploring and Innovating

    Building on a child’s curiosity and sense of wonder is the key to early learning at RHA.  Students develop an awareness of the natural and built environment while demonstrating an understanding of the natural world and the need to care and respect the environment. Students at RHA define, classify, make connections and predictions, test theories and use their imaginations to build knowledge and develop an understanding of the world around them.  To accomplish this, the learning environment must be active, hands-on, child-centred and inquiry-based. Students also learn to develop the skills for free exploration, focused exploration, and guided activities.
  • The Arts

    The Arts program in Early Years gives each child a means for expressing him/herself and for them to use their imagination. They gain a growing sense of self as they participate in visual arts, music, dance, and dramatic play. All of the activities are open-ended, fun and meaningful experiences that are integrated into the different themes.
  • Health and Physical Activity

    The children are introduced to concepts that promote a healthy lifestyle. Students develop both their fine and gross motor control in individual and group settings. Through games, students learn both social skills and physical skills. 
  • Library

    The library is an essential part of the Early Years program. The children are introduced to stories in both English and Hebrew sparking a love for words, books and reading.
  • Technology

    Technology is used intentionally and appropriately to enhance learning for every child and is based on solid developmental based foundations. There is always a balance of activities and technology and media are recognized as tools to support hands-on creative exploration with others and the world.

Thematic Units and Critical Thinking Questions

The JK and SK program features thematic units that relate to the children’s lives, interests and surroundings.  In JK, students are given opportunities to develop their skills in literacy, math, and critical thinking in ways that develop naturally out of their everyday experiences. By SK, students are actively developing their skills in reading, writing, Hebrew, mathematical thinking, and making sense of the larger world as they move through their day.  Students also meet with specialists regularly to learn more in-depth about music, art, literature, and physical education.

Critical Inquiry Unit

Each of the themes features an overall critical thinking question that serves to integrate and guide the children's explorations in General and Judaic Studies throughout the year.

List of 2 items.

  • JK Guiding Critical Thinking Questions

    • How can we best show respect to ourselves and others?
    • What makes me unique?
    • How do we use our five 5 senses to connect to the world?
    • How can various materials be used for different purposes?
    • What similarities and differences do we see throughout the seasons?
  • SK Guiding Critical Thinking Questions

    • How do we get along with others?
    • What are the most important patterns and trends you can see in a hero?
    • What is the most important thing you can do to care for the world?
    • What is the most important choice that you can make each day?
    • What is the most significant change that you have made this year?

Building Blocks to a Balanced Education

  • Jewish values-based approach to education; learning to care for ourselves, for each other, for our families and communities and for our world
  • A warm and inviting environment which nurtures the joy of learning and provides a welcome to you as parents.
  • Classrooms engage in themes, centre-based activities, reading circles, and technology to engage, excite, and educate our youngest children
  • There are multiple opportunities for self-chosen exploration, social interaction and critical thinking with each child learning at their own pace and learning style
  • Children experience play-based centers and teacher-guided activities with cooperative learning in a variety of groupings
  • Teachers and students are active partners in the learning process: supporting, encouraging and documenting student learning as they nurture learning and development of the children
  • Hebrew is used throughout the day as well as at special Jewish Studies times. Students learn words relevant to our daily lives and to prayer.