Ahava Preschool 3By David R. Cohen | david@atljewishtimes.com

The Ahava early learning center at Ahavath Achim Synagogue will welcome in its first class of preschoolers Monday, Aug. 17, but faculty and staff have another big date in mind.

Sometime this fall, the new preschool will open a state-of-the-art facility on the site of the former Epstein School preschool, which moved to the day school’s Sandy Springs campus three years ago. Until the new building is completed, Ahava will operate in a temporary space inside AA.

Ahava Preschool 1

As shown in an artist’s rendering, the Ahava outdoor classroom will feature a climbing wall, amphitheater and rain garden.

“I’m excited about everything really,” Ahava Director Hannah Williams said. “I have joined an amazing team of professionals and leaders who have been working for several years to prepare this preschool for the community. Everyone is working together to create an amazing future.”

When the extensive renovations are complete, the Reggio Emilia-inspired preschool will include floor-to-ceiling windows, an art studio with a kiln room, and a 19,200-square-foot outdoor classroom with a climbing wall, amphitheater and green house.

As a Jewish preschool, Ahava plans to provide children with a multisensory experience for learning and play that will combine real-world exploration and Jewish values such as cooperation, collaboration and respect.

Williams, who grew up attending Ahavath Achim, said every detail of the center was designed to let the children explore areas of their own development. In addition to studying art, math and pre-literacy skills, pupils at Ahava will be given ample opportunity to choose their own paths.

Ahava Preschool 2

Construction continues at the future home of Ahava’s outdoor classroom. – Photo by David R. Cohen

“We are going to first sit back and watch the children,” she said. “Once we have observations to see where their interests lie, then we will construct new opportunities for learning around those interests. So the children really become co-constructors of their own experience. The basics are there, but the actual details will come from the children’s interests.”

The Reggio Emilia approach to preschool was developed in Italy after World War II and is based on principles of respect, responsibility and community through self-exploration and discovery.

Ahava has 14 children enrolled for the core program beginning in August, which runs from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Once the new building opens, Ahava will expand its hours to 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m

The teaching staff will include Williams, curriculum coordinator and AA member Beth Arnold Helmey, and lead teacher Danya Maloon.

The preschool is open to children regardless of whether their families are affiliated with AA.

“It’s really a blend of so many different people’s ideas and spirits that have come together,” Williams said. “The collaboration of the adults is really what I think is going to make this such a successful place for the children.”