Not just a gem

Building is a favorite modality for many children in ענפים (Anafim, “branches, our 3rd-4th grade group). The children have used assortments of small materials to show their ideas about texts for years, and are adept at taking many different kinds of texts and making them visible through the symbolic use of pretty much any set of materials.


I think the combination of visual and kinesthetic engagement provokes amazing creativity. Take this example:


This child used small building materials to depict the scene from בראשית יב:א-ג (Genesis 12:1-3), where Adonai tells Avram to “Go out, away from your land, and from your birthplace, and from the house of your ancestors, to the land which I will show you.”

On the right is Avram’s land, birthplace, and ancestors’ house. (I checked to confirm that this child interpreted the list of three places as being parallel references to the same actual place. Some children depicted three connected or layered structures, placing the ancestors’ house as ruins under Avram’s house, for example).

The section on the left is the nation that Avram will become. He is taller than everyone else (the wine cork tower in the middle, capped with a blue gem) because the text says Adonai promises him “I will make your name grow” and “You shall be a blessing.” The red gems surrounding him in a circle are the members of his nation. The steel nuts are the people from other places who weren’t his own descendants but joined the nation. The red gem path is Adonai showing him the way from his old land to his new land. The blue gems in Avram’s old home represent the ancestors.The wooden disk under Avram is stuff he brought from the land he left behind him.

Honestly, there’s as much to interpret here as in any of the texts we study together. No wonder the children are eager to see each others’ buildings and hear their explanations!



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