Jan 13

Shema Begins

It is the beginning of a new theme, שְׁמַע (Shema), children in שׁוֹרָשִׁים (Shorashim– ‘roots’ for nursery) and שְׁתִּילִים (Shteelim– ‘saplings’ for kindergarten) have jumped right in.

First, we discovered the name of our theme through a scavenger hunt for the Hebrew letters that spell שְׁמַע (Shema).

After we found the letters, we worked together to figure out which letters they were and heard the name שְׁמַע (Shema).

We found שְׁמַע (Shema) in lots of places around our space. We found שְׁמַע (Shema) in the Torah as well as in siddurim (Jewish prayer books).

We painted a sign with the name of our theme.

We made a torah on our wall and wrote the שְׁמַע (Shema) inside, to remind us that it is in the Torah.

We made a list of all of the things we know about the Shema:

  • You can sing it.
  • There is an out loud part and a whisper part.
  • It’s in the Torah (children wondered why some letters were longer, “maybe you say it longer?”).
  • Morning and night time were both options that children knew might be times that people say the שְׁמַע (Shema). A few children say the שְׁמַע (Shema) with their family before bed.

Jan 13

Exploring Shema

Wow – what an exciting beginning to our Winter Theme! This week Anafim v’Alonim (“Branches” for 3rd-4th grades and “Oak Trees” for 5th grade) began to explore “Shema.”

We began by discovering the Shema in the Torah, in a Mezuzah, and a Siddur (Jewish Prayerbook) – finding similarities and differences and wondering, “What is the shema?”

These children began designing a banner for our space!

On Wednesday and Thursday, children found and helped each other find the Shema in the Torah. It was so exciting to recognize the words, and to wonder about why the letters are written in such a fancy style.

After we found the Shema in the Torah, we went on a quest to find all the Mezuzot in the building. We noticed them on many doorways and that they had a variety of designs.

And… we played games! Hebrew games, juggling games, wax museum!

How nice it is to be together!

Dec 17

Celebrating Avraham V’Lot!

We had so much fun together in Anafim v’Alonim (“Branches” for 3rd-4th grades and “Oak Trees” for 5th grade) this week!

We began the week visiting our Avraham V’Lot (Abraham and Lot) Installation to see, share, and explore!

Some children wrote stories,
Others built about their ideas,
And others made collages with fabric. See how proud they are to share their ideas!

Later in the week, we celebrated a great fall together with a scavenger hunt, challenges, and baking together!

We made cheesecake truffles!
These children are putting the Hebrew months in order!
We ended our day by reflecting about what our highlights have been, and what we’re looking forward to about Winter at the Jewish Enrichment Center!

Wow – what a joy it is to celebrate with this community. See you next year!

Dec 06

Becoming Sevivonim

The children in Shalom, Chaverim! (“Welcome, Friends!” for ages 0 – 3 and their grown-ups) were immersed in Chanukah play.

They used Chanukah candles and sevivonim (dreidels) to paint or manipulate play-dough. They explored the textures and shapes of these objects while engaging in sensory play with colorful rice. They placed candles of different sizes and colors into different chanukiot (menorahs). Through dramatic play they created elaborate meals of traditional (and not-so-traditional!) Chanukah foods, or built giant chanukiot out of blocks. And of course, they spun sevivonim!

Some children chose to truly embody the festival by becoming sevivonim! They put on these wearable sevivonim made from cardboard boxes, then they spun, danced, and fell down just like real sevivonim. In addition to being a fun and physical way to end our exploration, as well as the holiday itself, these children enjoyed a unique perspective and experience while interacting with this traditional Chanukah toy.

Dec 06

Final Projects in Full Swing!

Anafim v’Alonim (“Branches” for 3rd-4th grades and “Oak Trees” for 5th grade) was abuzz this week with final projects and celebrating Chanukah!

Children painted and collaborated…

Dreamt big…

lit candles, one by one…
and delighted in playing old and new games together. Happy Chanukah!

Dec 02

Oh, Chanukah!

It’s חֲנֻכָּה (Chanukah) and the children in שׁוֹרָשִׁים (Shorashim– ‘roots’ for nursery) and שְׁתִּילִים (Shteelim– ‘saplings’ for kindergarten), are fully immersed in חֲנֻכָּה (Chanukah) play! We have had so many opportunities to use our חֲנֻכָּה (Chanukah) vocabulary!

We are having חֲנֻכָּה (Chanukah) celebrations! We make latkes, set up the table for guests, “light” the חֲנֻכִּיָה (Chanukiyah) and sing חֲנֻכָּה Chanukah songs!

We got ready to play the Chanukah story! These children are building a Menorah for the temple in the story. We heard that a Menorah is a little different than a חֲנֻכִּיָה (Chanukiyah), which we used in our pretend play area.

We made decorations for our space and חֲנֻכָּה (Chanukah) cards!

We played סְבִיבוֹן (sevivon- dreidel)!

Happy Chanukah!

Nov 18


Dear Anafim v’Alonim (“Branches” for 3rd-4th grades and “Oak Trees” for 5th grade),

You are amazing.

You showed us this week how naturally you collaborate with your peers,

how well you know yourselves and the way that you like to express your ideas,

how much you value togetherness,

how creative

and focused you are,

your capacity for independence and leading your own project,

and how joyous it can be to share ideas and grow together in community.

I’m feeling extra grateful to get to partner with you this fall.

Nov 16

Shalom, Chanukah!

The children in Shalom, Chaverim! (“Welcome, Friends!” for ages 0 – 3 and their grown-ups) are starting to explore Chanukah.

They used a variety of media to place Chanukah candles into chanukiot (menorahs or candle-holders) including foam shapes onto contact paper, felt Chanukah shapes, real candles in play-doh, and a toy Chanukah set. In this way they practice fine-motor skills while manipulating objects and shapes connected to the holiday.

Children painted tiles using acrylic paint and bulb-shaped brushes intended for small hands. Check out how engaged, focused, and proud they are! Next week the children will turn these tiles into their own handmade chanukiot to light during Chanukah. Some of these children will be celebrating Chanukah for the first time!

Nov 11

A Text-Based Play Space Designed by the Children

This week in שׁוֹרָשִׁים (Shorashim– ‘roots’ for nursery) and שְׁתִּילִים (Shteelim– ‘saplings’ for kindergarten), we have been working on our theme project for Avraham V’Lot!

The children have their hands in every part of the process of designing our paper mâché text-based play space.

We began the process by asking children to look at different photos, explore textures and choose colors, that they thought would best show, the land could not support them to live together (Genesis chapter 13, verse 6).

The children decided what the landscape of our paper mâché should look and they started shaping.

Children helped each other put on their smocks.

We covered the whole thing with newpaper and the paper mâché mixture.

The next day, we painted a base coat of paint on top.

The day after that, we painted a final layer. We mixed sand into the paint to give it some texture. The children made a discovery about mixing the brown and gray paint together, which really gave the paper mâché an earthen quality.

After painting we could start to play! We set up a special spot where pairs of children could go build about the text together, then they would be interviewed about their work and the building is photographed.

It is so amazing to see what the children are capable of!

Nov 04

Speaking through collage

This week in Nitzanim v’Anafim (“Buds” for 1st-2nd grades and “Branches” for 3rd grade), we explored the rest of Genesis 18, in which Adonai (God) and Avraham (Abraham) have a conversation about Adonai’s plans to destroy the city of S’dom. Avraham asks, “Will you destroy the righteous, too, along with the wicked?”

This was a long chunk of text, so we spent the whole week exploring what was going on between Avraham and Adonai. Some children acted out the conversation with their bodies and voices, while others drew comics that explored what the characters faces and bodies might look like during this conversation.

We then got to try out some new art modalities to get a little deeper. We asked: what are Adonai and Avraham feeling during this conversation? How does Adonai feel to be questioned? Is Avraham feeling brave? Scared? Upset? Children chose a background color based on what feelings they imagined the characters having, and collaged on top to create the scene.

This new way of creating about the text was incredibly evocative for the children in Nitzanim v’Anafim! As they worked, they spoke about their ideas and how they were using the materials to show them.

“Adonai is mad. All different kinds of mad. [Adonai] is pouring down mad. [I used red felt to show] soft mad, because [Adonai] wants to destroy the city but what if [Adonai] finds righteous people? Then [Adonai] can’t destroy the city.”

As the educator, getting a chance to see how children worked with these materials in this new way was incredibly helpful for thinking about their final projects for the theme. I’m excited to say that not only did children share fascinating ideas about the text through their artwork, but many children also reported that they really enjoyed working with the materials in this way. In the words of one 3rd grader: “Who knew gluing things down could be so satisfying!” Over the coming weeks, we’ll continue to practice new ways of using our materials to build our skills as we go into final project season!

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