Nov 01

Pinat Shalom

There is a very special place in one corner of Beit Nitzanim. It’s called Pinat Shalom (“Peace Corner”). When it was introduced a few weeks ago, children practiced how to use Pinat Shalom to resolve conflicts. This week we saw it in action. 

The children shared trays of small, natural building materials to build scenes from Genesis 3. 

When Child #1 wanted to use a material on another pair’s tray, she asked if she could trade for something on her tray. Child #2 did not want to make the trade, so both children went to Pinat Shalom. They followed the steps, agreed on a solution, and resumed building.  

Pinat Shalom gives children the tools to work together to resolve conflict in ways that feel comfortable to both parties. This is why we took the time at the beginning of the school year to establish a Pinat Shalom and practice using it. Go Nitzanimers! You got this!

Oct 31

Collaboration makes it all Possible

There has been quite a bit of excitement in Shorashim (‘roots’ for nursery) and Shteelim (‘saplings’ for Kindergarten) as we have started our theme, Adam v’Admah (using Chapters 1-3 of the book of Genesis from the Torah). One thing to know about this group of children is that they continue to find ways to collaborate and learn from each other every day!

As we began to hear the Genesis 1-2 text, children had ideas about building a גן (gan-garden), in fact they spent quite a bit of time creating their גן (gan-garden) together. The children told each other what parts they wanted to build and decided on the placement of each element of their גן (gan-garden) together. When a new child wanted to join their play, they would pause, explain what they were working on, and offer show the new child how to use materials in the building area.

At כיבוד (kibud-snack), children shared their answers to questions about our new text with a partner and with the full group. They took turns talking and listening. Later, they were able to take their ideas and turn them into elements we were adding to the גן (gan-garden), including, The Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowing Good and Bad.

When they heard about the Tree of Knowing Good and Bad, children started offering their own interpretation of what the Tree of Knowing Good and Bad should look like:

  • “I would divide it in half, one (side) is good and one (side) is bad.”
  • “The good side should be red.”
  • “The good side would have apples and butterflies and good things that can happen.”
  • “One side is red, it’s the good side, one side is black, its the bad side. I would put nightmares on it.”

Then, in a flurry of conversation between the children, they debated adding more colors to the good side. After they came to an agreement, we got to work creating our Tree of Knowing Good and Bad.

This week, we also introduced “Children’s Text Theater”, where we tried playacting a small amount of text, in this case, Adonai Elohim made the Adam with dust from the adamah (the ground) and breathed into his nose the breath of life. And then the Adam was alive. (Genesis 2:7). This kind of play is not possible without collaboration.

I can wait to see how the children will collaborate and learn from each other next week!

Oct 25

Getting to the heart of it

This week, Nitzanim children heard Genesis 3:1-10 for the first time, and wow were they ready to dive right in!

All of the work we’ve been doing over the last few weeks to listen to our inner voices (see post here) has prepared children to notice details in the text and ask big questions. In many cases, children’s biggest questions led them to explore issues not only at the core of the text but also central to how they understand the world around them.

For example, one child is wrestling with ideas about breaking rules.

“Even though it’s shiny, God said don’t eat it, so don’t eat it. It’s like breaking a promise. The girl [breaks a rule]. Nachash (snake) didn’t know which one it (the tree of knowing good and bad) was so it’s not his fault.”

Another child is curious about power and motivation.

“He [God] said not to eat from it. They thought it was worth it because it looked so beautiful and they wouldn’t die because the snake said so. They’re like God now.”

And children continue to wrestle with concepts of right and wrong. Is the נחש (nachash–snake) trying to help or trying to hurt?

“Maybe the snake’s lying because [it] doesn’t know as much as God. [The] snake thinks it’s helping.”

Nitzanim children are getting to the heart of the text, and I can’t wait to see how their interpretations continue to unfold!

Oct 25

The Tree of Knowing Good and Bad

As we continue our exploration of our current theme Adam v’Adamah in Anafim v’Alonim (“Branches” for 2nd-4th grades and “Oak trees” for 5th grade), many children are captivated by the Tree of knowing good and bad. 

In Genesis 2, we encounter the tree of knowing good and bad. Here are the versus in Genesis 2 that discuss the tree of knowing good and bad. 


Genesis 2:9 
And Adonai Elohim made every tree which is lovely to see, and good to eat, sprout out of the adamah. And the Tree of life was in the middle of the gan (the garden); and the tree of knowing-good-and-bad.

Genesis 2:15-17

Adonai Elohim took the Adam and set him into Gan Eden to work in it and guard it. 16. And Adonai Elohim instructed the Adam: “You may eat of all the trees in the garden. 17. But you must not eat from the tree of knowing-good-and-bad. For if the day comes when you eat from it, then you must die. 

Here are some of the ideas and questions that have emerged in Anafim v’Alonim

“Everything’ could be really, really good or really, really bad [if you eat from the tree]. But I have a question: Is the tree of knowing good and bad real on our earth?

“God put stuff out there for us to find out, and we just haven’t figured them out yet.”

“The fruit has two parts. If you eat the good part [of the fruit], the good spirit goes inside you. And if you eat the bad part, a bad spirit goes inside you.” 

If God eats a fruit from the Tree of Knowing Good and Bad he’ll be a better leader but if Adam/any regular person eats from it then they get evil because then all the bad that’s already in them gets out and that person turns evil. So that’s why God says when/on the day you do that you die because you can’t be evil.”

WOW! So many rich ideas to pull apart together. Today we will look back at these ideas as a kvutzah (group) and dig into each of them to create a deeper understanding. I know this thoughtful and curious group of children will have even MORE questions and ideas to explore!

Oct 18

See you Sunday!

We’ve been so busy preparing for our Sukkot Harvest Party.

Making treats to share.

Shaking the lulav and etrog.

And playing some new Sukkot Ivrit (Hebrew) games.

We can’t wait to celebrate the season’s bounty with you. See you Sunday at 9:15!

Oct 04

Interpretation in yetzirah (art/creativity)

Today, a child was feeling stuck. He wanted to show Adonai Elohim (God) removing the rib bone from the adam (human) and building ishah (woman) in Genesis 2, but he wasn’t sure how to draw it.

I posed the question to his peers, “How might Child A show this part?” and immediately we had a bunch of different suggestions:

  • “You could draw the rib bone”
  • “You could draw a person asleep and God”
  • “You could draw two people”

Ultimately, Child A chose to draw “God’s hand reaching down from the sky,” which differed from Child B’s drawing of “Ishah (woman) transforming,” and Child C’s, “God’s grabbing the rib and then he makes the girl.”

Child A’s artwork. Notice the red line in the top right corner representing God’s hand.
Child B’s artwork. The faint lines in the center of the art represent God removing the rib bone. The lines on the lower right show the transformation of ishah (woman).
Child C’s artwork. Notice the two figures on the bottom of the painting.

What a rich starting point for Nitzanim children to begin a conversation about interpretation and differing perspectives! Our brains work differently, and we each imagine text from our own perspective. By sharing our perspectives with each other, our own ideas are sometimes challenged, helping us strengthen our original interpretations.

I can’t wait to bring children back their drawings and paintings so that we might look closely and discover multiple ideas about a particular pasuk (verse) in the text.

Sep 27

Snapshots of a Rosh Hashanah Story

Did you know that the children in Shorashim (‘Roots’ for nursery) and Shteelim (‘Saplings’ for Kindergarten) are storytellers and editors?

This week at כיבוד (kibud–snack), we looked at photos of the ways we have played Rosh Hashanah and wrote a story to go with the photos. We also went through a process to edit the story, so the children could share exactly the words they wanted. We discovered that it is fun to tell a story together and also hard if not everyone agrees about the edits.

Here are a few parts that will be included:

Everybody was chopping apples for Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year).
I was pouring the honey, “If you run out of honey you can pour some more.”
We made Rosh Hashanah cards together for our families. 
We each blew a shofar, that’s how we started the new year.
We invited a lot of people to a Rosh Hashanah party.
At dinner we took the apples and dipped them in honey and we sang, apples dipped in honey for Rosh Hashanah.

Sep 27

Getting messy in Anafim v’Alonim!

This week children in Anafim v’Alonim (“Branches” for 2nd-4th grades and “Oak trees” for 5th grade) experimented painting with their etzba’ot (fingers). It was a hit! The children only worked with primary colors and white, such amazing mixing they did!

Each session children chose a new part of the text we read. So far we have read Genesis 1 and 2. Many children were captivated by the part when God places “the Adam” in the garden. Others were drawn to the section of the four rivers flowing out of the garden.

Here are some awesome photos of their work:

Each week we have had a new focus on painting. First, with mixing colors, then blending, and now working with our fingers. I know as we dig deeper into the text the techniques children use and learn from one another will produce incredible paintings!

Sep 25

“How come this one is the same thing?”

We’re a few weeks into our Adam v’Adamah Torah theme, and Nitzanim first and second graders have been working hard on listening to their “inner voice” when we read and discuss text together at כיבוד (kibud–snack) Their inner voice is a reaction to the text that might come in the form of a question, feeling, or connection to the text. By listening closely to their inner voice, children begin to develop the skills for wondering about text and forming interpretations.

Just yesterday, a group of three first graders were listening closely to our text from Sefer Breishit Perek Bet (Genesis 2), when their inner voices sounded the alarm. They realized that the story in Genesis 2 sounded a lot like the story in Genesis 1, and they were filled with curiosity and opinions:

Child 1: Isn’t in Perek Alef (Chapter 1) doesn’t God create everything? How come this one is the same thing?

Child 2: I think they’re like the same story but they’re from different parts.

Child 1: … How come if it’s one big sentence [text]… why aren’t all of them (the stories) connected?

Child 2: They are the same story.

Child 3: I think they’re the same story but… they don’t have the same words. 

Child 2: He (God) created birds and animals, but in the other one he did too.

Child 1: There’s a question to answer: Why couldn’t he (God) just use the stuff he already created? How come he created a bunch of animals if he already had a bunch of animals?

I can’t wait to share this conversation with children in Nitzanim who attend on other days! I wonder what reactions other childrens’ inner voices will have to this line of questioning about Genesis 1 and Genesis 2.


Sep 20

Sharing techniques and building community

This year has been off to an incredible start. If you step into Beit Anafim v’Alonim (“Branches” for 2nd-4th grade and “Oak trees” for 5th grade)! during session you’ll find children who are energized by new connections, explorations, and opportunities to create with one another.

We kicked off our new theme by exploring all 7 days of creation in 3 days. For each day children painted what they saw in their head. The pictures they created differed from one another. Some were representational drawing plants and the sky. Others contrasted light and dark and represented words that stood out to them with different colors.

There are two things that stood out to me during these few painting sessions. First, the children supporting one another in new ideas and asking questions about them. “Oh that’s cool, how did you do that?” or “Can you show me how you did that?”

The other thing I noticed were children working with new partners. Many of the children are in our group together for the first time. Children are making beautiful new connections.

Anafim v’Alonim (“Branches” for 2nd-4th grade and “Oak trees” for 5th grade), I can’t wait to see what this coming week brings, both the community building and collaboration we will continue to do!

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