IMPACT STORIES

Welcome to our Impact Stories archive page. Since our founding, we’ve completed 1,170 projects, and are deep into children’s explorations this year. Each year, we will highlight five of these projects, sharing our children’s remarkable insights from the past 13 years.

All children at the Field School aged 3-13 explore the same topic, or theme (such as “Yosef”, “Blessing,” “Haggadah,” or “Avraham v’Sarah”, starting with meticulous, collaborative study of a developmentally-appropriate translation that stays close to an original Hebrew or Aramaic text.

Over the course of the theme, children of all ages realize a new insight, emerging from their own interpretation of the text and nurtured into existence through an extended creative project. Throughout, children play, engage with an immense range of artistic and expressive media, dialogue with peers, collaborate, challenge and support one another. At the end of each theme, we share children’s work publicly in a giant floor-to-ceiling installation highlighting each child’s unique questions and ideas, and foster conversation with family and community members.

We invite you to explore the wisdom and insights that have come of this process and reflect on what these projects say about children, Judaism, and the kind of educational process that holds dear the child’s voice.

  • Story #5

    Why spend time on yetzirah (art/creating)? It’s integral to developing our ideas.

    As fourth and fifth grade children encountered the biblical Joseph, they considered elements of comics. Where will you “point your camera”? Thick lines. Wavy words. A splash of color. Zoom in. Whose perspective are you showing?

    Children portrayed the same moment so differently! By pairing Torah study with tools for visual expression, children offered each other nuanced text readings, vibrant and dramatic. Torah study, integrated with yetzirah (art/creating), deepened children’s capacity to consider the world from different perspectives.

    Who is Yosef? It depends how you see it.

  • Story #4

    What does it take for children to peel back the layers of a complex biblical figure like Yosef (Joseph) and develop their own interpretation?

    In the first – third grade group, children heard the text multiple times, wrestled with it with peers, and created with chalk pastels. Chalk pastel was such a rich, expressive material for this age group! Children could blend and layer, use pressure and big gestures to express their big feelings about this text.

    Children developed such nuanced interpretations! One 8-year-old thought the biblical Yosef changes through his life. He starts “being normal” and “turns angry” when “his brothers did all those bad things…, because it’s not really his fault that he’s Ya’akov’s [his father’s] favorite.” This child thinks that Yosef becomes a person who is “hiding himself.” Finally, years later, “he took off all of his disguises and showed himself…unleashing himself and revealing himself” to his brothers.

    Wow.

  • Story #3

    Elijah the Prophet. We open the door for him at Passover. We sing for his return at the end of Shabbat. Who is he, though?

    Children met Eliyahu in I Kings, when he seeks God in the wind, in the earthquake, in the fire, and finally, hears a soft, small voice. Children met Eliyahu in rabbinic literature, reminding us of our responsibility to make the world as it should be. Children met Eliyahu in folk tales, where he appears and provides for those in need. Finally, children considered why we might include this enigmatic character in our Passover seder.

    Second and third grade children considered what tools they would carry to help them hear the “soft, small voice” and make the world better. On Friday, March 13, 2020, their shrinky dink tools sat ready, the room filled with projects from children ages 3 – 15, for a family celebration that never took place.

  • Story #2

    The kindergarten children needed more. They were taking part in the nursery tunic-making project, but they were nearly bursting with wanting to grapple with the whole, complex Yosef story. We invited kindergarten children to design their own project.

    The knowledge, creativity, and sensitive social attunement of the four kindergarten children expanded to fill every aspect of this project. From collaboratively retelling the entire text, complete with their own literary flair (from “There was once a boy…” to “And that was that!”) to making props, navigating disagreements, matching character costumes to the mood of the scene, and acting with movement, posture, and expression, children’s interpretation of the text emerged through hundreds of small details and collaborative decisions. This was their version.

    When the kindergarten children saw the book they had created together, they knew they had accomplished something Big. “I feel like a twelfth grader!” one boy said. And indeed, these young children showed as much dedication, collaboration, enthusiasm, and deep thought about Torah and human relationships as Jewish people of any age. Kol hakavod – way to go – amazing kindergarteners.

  • Story #1

    In the winter of our second year, we created a symbol of personal yearning and communal responsibility. Inspired by two traditional Jewish morning prayers, our Mah Tovu tent knits together the personal intentions of children, parents, and grandparents.

    Today, we gather under our beautiful tent at the end of every session, adults and children together. It graces our singing space, a visible reminder of our commitment to each other.

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