their book Designs for Living and Learning, but my goals were aligned to a
similar vision. In other words, the room was filled with beauty, order, and
materials strategically placed to stimulate ideas, discussion, questions, proj-
ects, and so on. The children were engaged and happy. So what was bother-
ing me? What was missing?
One spring day, while in the outdoor playground, a small boy came up to
me with a big grin of delight across his face. He slowly opened his hand and
showed me his prize. It was a long, wet, curly worm. If you knew me well,
you would know that I truly love all things from nature. I would normally
be delighted to see a worm. But that day, I froze. I realized that back in my
Jewish early childhood days, I would have access to a blessing. In fact, Max-
ine and I talked about blessings from the heart in the very book that we were
writing. These are blessings that are made up to serve any specific purpose
at any moment. Most Jewish blessings begin with “Blessed are you, God.”
For children in a public-school setting, there is no reason at all not to create
a blessing from the heart to acknowledge a spiritual moment. This is when
I first realized what ingredient was missing in my inner-city classroom—a
What Is Spiritual Development for Young Children?
R 7

lens for spiritual development. I could have responded to the child with the
worm by saying, for example, “Thank you, world, for giving us amazing crea-
tures.” I could have turned to the child and asked him to share his gratitude
in finding this worm. But I didn’t do anything.

This lack of response led me to the Internet, where I typed in a variety of
search terms to reflect spiritual development and the spirituality of young
children. For spiritual development, I found very little that pertained to
children. When I typed in spirituality, I found lots of material reflecting
transcendence, God, and religion. I was left wondering what to do next.

Over the next two years, I could not vanquish my thoughts of spiritual
development for young children. People told me to forget it; spirituality is
an uncomfortable word. “You cannot bring spirituality into an early child-
hood classroom,” they said. But it followed me wherever I went. Finally, the
only option left was to do my own research.

In 2005 I enrolled as a doctoral student at Walden University, and I never
looked back. Even in an academic setting, I had to fight battles to make my
research a reality. With lots of hard work, a steadfast belief in what I was
working on, and the help and support of my husband, Rabbi Jeffrey Schein,
as well as my adviser, Dr. Amie Beckett, I made it through.

Today, I can share an ever-evolving definition of spiritual development
for young children that arranges this knowledge into a system that changes
how we see and use that which we know (see the following diagram). Spiri-
tual development is as complex and invisible to the naked eye as intellectual
development, as deep-seated as emotional development, and as integrative
as social development. In fact, my research shows that spiritual development
may, in fact, be the precursor to all other areas of development. More work
needs to happen in this field. For now, I am pleased to share the language of
spiritual development so that we can begin the wonderful discovery of what
is actually taking place within early childhood environments throughout
the United States as we use this new and exciting lens to help children gain
a better beginning to life and learning.

8 R