Siem Day Care Center (Weizmann Institute Campus)

The Anixter and Siem Family Foundation Early Childhood Village provides an ideal environment for the children of scientists, students, and staff at the Weizmann Institute of Science, with every detail of the children’s needs addressed: cognitive, emotional, physical, artistic, dietary, and social.

The staff of the combined facilities is 36 employees, all of them highly dedicated and trained professionals that include the classroom caregivers, head supervisor Einat Benita, kitchen staff, and young women performing their national service duties by working as teacher aides. There are, on average, four staff members in each classroom with the children, making the caregiver-to-child ratio much higher than in other Israeli daycare settings. The high ratio enables teachers to give more individualized attention to the children, break into groups, assist children who need extra help at any given moment, and create a busy but relaxed and happy environment.

It is not only the high caregiver-to-student ratio that has made this a much-loved place. The facility itself is modern, light-filled, and clean; the outdoor yards, separated by class, are orderly and shaded from the hot sun, making even mid-summer outdoor play possible; and the atmosphere is cheerful, with every employee taking the initiative to greet a parent and child entering the doors in the morning.

One of the special features is the nutritious menu and the care that is put into preparing three meals a day plus snacks for the children. In devising the weekly menu, the kitchen staff is advised by a dietician. There are no processed foods or sweets; the menu is diverse and always includes a hot meat meal at lunchtime; and fruits and vegetables are plentiful. All bread served is whole wheat and sandwiches of date spread on whole wheat bread are offered in lieu of the typical Israeli pita-with-chocolate sandwich-a staple of most Israeli preschools. Often, the cooks visit the classrooms to hear feedback from the teachers and children, even sitting with them during mealtime on some days.

The Anixter Childhood Village also offers a number of educational workshops every year for the caregivers to enrich their teaching experiences, including workshops on the importance of creative activities, reading and storytelling, and conflict resolution. These workshops enhance the caregivers’ work experience and rapidly translate to enhance experiences for the children.

The Anixter staff invites parents to participate in activities of the center, like doing a show-and-tell for the children. Each year the staff chooses a special area of focus to demonstrate to parents what their children do during the day. In Visibility Week, for instance, parents are exposed to various aspects of their children’s activities and actually mimic the activities, like eating a meal, taking a nap, and sitting for story time.

One of the most valued aspects of the center is the fact that it is closed on very few days throughout the year. It is open all summer long, except for a single week at the end of August in which the staff readies for the following year. It is closed on Jewish holidays but open on most holiday eves (when most Israeli day cares close early or altogether), and on hol hamoed (intermediate days of Sukkot and Passover). For scientists whose lab experiments can’t often be put on hold, this feature is highly valued.

Although the annual tuition is higher than that of typical Israeli day care settings because of the high teacher-to-student ratio, the nutritious menu, and other features that raise the quality of care, demand has skyrocketed in recent years because of the superb reputation of the facility and its caring, dedicated, and hard-working staff.

The Weizmann Institute sees the Anixter Childhood Village as an essential benefit for its scientists, students, and staff. A benefit that enables the continuous strive to excellence in every aspect of Weizmann science and life. The center owes its existence to the generosity of Edward F. Anixter Family Foundation and Ms. Sylvia Shulman.