Opening New Windows

We had an exciting afternoon full of discoveries and experimentation in Beit Shorashim today. The children arrived full of energy and enthusiasm. One child wanted to know why the “glass” (the stained glass window on the second floor near our classrooms) was dark today. I answered that window doesn’t face the sun, so it needs electric light to make its colors glow. Together we turned the switch and marveled at the dramatic change. Our discussion of light, dark, colors, shapes and textures continued as we ate snack together, and we used one of our class milonim (dictionaries) to look up the Hebrew words for all the shapes and colors we saw in the window. After snack, we decided to make “stained glass” Rosh Hashanah cards for our friends using black paper and lots of small pieces of colored paper in lieu of glass. Another child suggested we move to the light table in the Peenat Seefria (the library corner). Sitting together around our light table on the rug, we made rainbows and circles on the table’s lit surface with the classroom’s collection of smooth, polished glass stones.

Relaxing at the End of the Day

Watching the children talk about the colors they saw inspired me to introduce a new material: colored tissue paper. We started with long rectangular strips of tissue, then cut and tore the strips to make new shapes. We also used tape to combine colors and also experimented with layering glass stones on top and underneath. It was very inspiring to be able to look out the glass window next to our classroom door and see the lit stained glass window, identify shapes and images in the window (hands, fruit, lit candles, the characters of the aleph bet), and try to recreate them on our own light table. As we worked, one child also made a great connection between the dark and light play we were absorbed in at the light table, and the change in the quality of light we could see through our classroom window as afternoon turned into early evening.

Of course, we also spent time today on other smaller projects. We prepared and ate a delicious snack of Cheerios and milk and bananas, after saying our brachot (blessings). We put bubot (dolls) to bed and made birthday cake in the Peenat Bayit (house corner).

Peeling Tapuchim (Apples)

I had a completely different plan for our work today in Beit Shorashim before a child asked her first question about the stained-glass window. But by following the interests and questions of the Shorashim learners, our group was able to spend our afternoon absorbed in Hebrew language study, discussing the most important elements of Rosh Hashanah, and engaging in acts of Chesed (kindness) towards others by making cards. In the course of all this work, we also excitedly began to explore larger themes that the Beit Shorashim kehillah (community) as a whole will return to again and again in our journey towards a greater understanding of Jewish religion and culture (light and dark, friendship, the Jewish calendar year, and the passage of time). The children were able to be leaders, provocateurs, and collaborators. For me, this afternoon was a great example of how self-directed learning and play can lead to enormous intellectual and creative growth.

Nitzanim children invited Shorashim children into Beit Nitzanim, their home



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