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BHA Preschool

BHA Preschool is a progressive, garden-based, Jewish learning community for children ages 2 - 4.  

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we took BHA Preschool entirely outdoors during the 2020-21 school year. Now our outdoor classroom is well-equipped for all of our preschool needs. This Fall 2021, we plan to continue to learn and play in the open air every day. Our beautiful and welcoming indoor space will be available to us as well.



At our preschool we believe that children are innate learners and spiritual beings. Their work is to play - to explore with their senses, test their theories, and observe closely the world they live in. They do this best in an uncluttered, materials-rich environment, and outside. Teachers nurture, guide, and inspire them with kindness, clear expectations, and the Jewish tradition’s emphasis on wonder as a way of life.



Our days balance practical work and community routines with investigations and projects that emerge from children’s interests. The garden is one of our classrooms, where we connect mind, body and spirit with the cycle of the seasons, the foods that nourish us, and our Jewish traditions.

Our typical schedule:

  • Arrival & Choice Time: Explorations into art, science, literacy, and math that engage all of the senses. Cook apple sauce for Rosh Hashanah, sculpt winter nests for garden creatures, create puppets and movements inspired by a story read aloud....
  • Circle Time: Routines, songs, movement activities, and sharing of new material/question/student project.
  • Snack time: Washing hands, sharing fresh, wholesome foods and water, giving thanks, and cleaning up.
  • Extended play and investigations, including activities that focus on tending the garden and observing the ecosystems surrounding it, tapping our maple trees for syrup, tending our garden, digging, climbing, scooting, and building.
  • Closing meeting: We reflect and share about our morning, read a story, sing a song, and say good-bye.
  • Dismissal

Our days have rhythm and routine, while each is unique. We'll be:

  • Digging, planting, baking, sweeping…

As our children partake in the caring activities of life, they develop healthy relationships with themselves, their friends, and their world.

  • Singing, dancing, sculpting, painting… 

Our children express their hearts and minds; the teachers guide and support their creative processes.

  • Looking, touching, tasting, listening...

Our inquiry-based approach values our children’s curiosity and capacity for constructing knowledge from hands-on experiences.

  • Living Judaism is the air we breathe - and the air is full of magic. 

We grind wheat to make challah, share gratitude for the food we grow and prepare, form beeswax into candles, make glorious Shabbat flower arrangements, decorate our Sukkah, and much more. Our preschool offers a Judaism that is simple, nourishing, and exciting.


Director and lead teacher Ilana Friedman began BHA Preschool in September 2016 with teacher and flower farmer Diana Cowdery and the support of the BHA Community. Ilana comes to BHA with a Masters in Teaching from Brown University and more than thirteen years of experience teaching in progressive classrooms in New York. Dedicated to creating playful, child-centered learning communities for local children, Ilana founded Beacon Craft Workshop and co-founded the Camp @ the Camp, a program of Beacon Recreation. Ilana loves making art, singing, hiking, and most of all spending time with children. She lives in Beacon with her husband and two children. Ilana feels extremely grateful to work with the encouraging, resourceful, and spiritually open community of BHA. 

Sophia Jackson has worked as a substitute teacher at BHA preschool for 5 years. This year she joined the regular teaching team, and she brings her expertise in  Alexander Technique for children and passion for integrating sign language into all learning activities. She brings her background in the visual arts, her experience teaching at Compass Arts, as well as her commitment to play to BHA Preschool. 


Eric Saiet is an improv expert and a theater teacher. He is a story teller and writes for TV programs like Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood. Eric is also a BHA Preschool parent!

Regina Williams Before moving to Beacon Regina received her masters in education from Bank Street College of Education. She has taught in a number of local schools while raising three children of her own. Regina is excited to return to the BHA preschool community. When not playing in the sandbox, planting in the garden, and nurturing young minds Regina can be found sewing quilts and knitting sweaters. 



Rabbi Brent Spodek and Cantor Ellen Gersh, Education Director Rishe Groner support this team of teachers.

A wide community of preschool families and volunteers have built our preschool from the ground up, designing and building the garden, donating time and equipment, and lending advice and support. Our preschool is a true blossoming of community.




  • We refer to NYS and CDC recommendations for COVID-19 prevention protocol.
  • We spend most of our time outdoors, through the seasons. Children grow and learn best with fresh air, outdoor play, and a connection to the earth. We ask families to dress their children for the elements.
  •  We use eco-friendly practices. Our commitment to protecting our Earth and maintaining a safe, clean environment is integrated into our curriculum. We compost, recycle, reuse, and use only earth-friendly products for your child and our staff. Wholesome foods fill our bellies. You can learn more about the overall food policies of BHA here.
  • Our preschool is a little community within a much wider community. We embrace the generations. Our elders visit for story-time and special events. Our parents come to our impromptu bakery for fresh, warm hamentashen. We sing special songs with Cantor Ellen and practice meditation with Rabbi Brent. Our preschool is part of Masa, which means journey in Hebrew. Masa is the robust youth education program of the BHA.
  • We lovingly potty train your child when they are ready.
  • We welcome children and families from all backgrounds.

  • Children are required to be up-to-date on NYS mandated vaccinations.

Is your child ready for preschool? Here is our criteria for participation in the BHA Preschool.



Enrollment this year works on a trimester basis, with the hope that families will stay for the entire academic school year.  Our program currently runs Tuesdays through Fridays from 9:00 am until 11:55 am, and children are enrolled all four days per week.

School is closed on major Jewish and national holidays. School also is be closed when Beacon City School District calls for closure due to weather conditions. We also have school breaks similar to the Beacon City School District.

2021-22 Calendar

Fall Trimester: Sept. 9-Dec. 10, 2021

Winter Trimester: Dec. 14, 2021-March 18, 2022

Spring Trimester: March 22, 2022-June 17, 2022

Tue, October 19 2021 13 Cheshvan 5782