Early Childhood Education in Santa Monica: Beth Shir Shalom Early Childhood Center
February 24, 2022 4:02 p.m.
by Ivy Chang
The early years of life are the best time to ensure a strong future for all children in Santa Monica. Early education advances equity and is essential for thriving families and communities. Whether children are starting to care for infants, toddlers, or preschoolers, Santa Monica is home to a wide range of early learning programs, with varying schedules, times, and costs.
Safe, nurturing care should be available to all children, regardless of income, need, family race or ethnicity, or languages spoken. Connections for Children, our local child care resource and referral agency, can help you find a program that meets your needs and determine if you qualify for funding to help pay for it (connectionsforchildren. org or (310) 452-3325).
Our communities are stronger when every child is healthy, safe and engaged in early learning. Read on to learn more about the passionate and diverse professionals who do this important work in Santa Monica. This is part 1 of a series.
Program name: Beth Shir Shalom Early Childhood Center
Director: Robin Masnicoff
Age of children served: 18 months in kindergarten
Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., all year round
Brief history: The Beth Shir Shalom Early Childhood Center (ECC) is part of Beth Shir Shalom, a Reform Synagogue that has been an integral part of Santa Monica since 1942. The center is a “Sesame Street” school, which means most of the children who attend are from the region. and walk to school.
What would you like Santa Monicans to know about the importance of early childhood? The value of early childhood education is clear. Children who attend a developmentally appropriate program that promotes independence and social-emotional maturity experience great success in kindergarten. If a child isn’t feeling well in their early years and we don’t meet them where they are, we’re doing them a disservice. We want them to defend themselves and have the skills to navigate in kindergarten. We support their learning. We teach children that they are not the only ones in the room, that there are others to fight; also, how to be patient, wait and care for others. We want them to look forward to being here at our program, and we want them to know that if they are sad someone is there to help them, and when they are happy there is someone to share their joy. We want to expand their world because, especially in light of the pandemic, kids don’t necessarily interact with other kids outside of school. Their first interactions with their peers (and without their parents) are there.
What do you mean when you say that Beth Shir Shalom ECC is a community that “sings together, cries together and changes the world together”? We strive to teach our children the importance of “mitzvot and tzedakah,” the idea of doing something good for someone else. Our program encourages children to consider the needs of those around them. For example, a member of Temple Beth Shir Shalom is creating backpacks containing nutritional snacks and food for local public school students struggling with food shortages to take home for the weekend. Our program helps supplement by inviting our children to donate healthy snacks. Even young children understand the meaning of a granola bar and learn to take care of others. Every Friday, the older children bring coins to put in a tzedakah box and choose a place where they want to donate the money – sometimes it’s a children’s hospital or a place for the homeless. We want to support their understanding of giving.
You mentioned: “At Beth Shir Shalom, everyone who walks through the door is welcomed with open arms, regardless of circumstance, race, religion, orientation or gender. How is this reflected in your student body? We have a very diverse student body. Not all of our families are Jewish or part of the synagogue. Even our families who are not [part of the synagogue] still participate in many of our general events, especially when we do our tzedakah projects. Our values are universal. We want our children to leave our program strong, able and able to stand up for themselves and others.
For more information, please contact Beth Shir Shalom ECC directly at bethshirshalom.org or (310) 829-2517.
For a list of licensed early childhood programs in Santa Monica, go to: santamonicacradletocareer.org/childcare.
If you have an accredited preschool learning program in Santa Monica and would like to share your story, please email [email protected].
Senior Administrative Analyst
Programs, youth and seniors
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