Menorah vs. Hanukkiyah (easy show ‘n’ tell)

menorah trio trimmed


A Menorah is a lamp. A lamp is a menorah.

A Hanukkah menorah  is a hanukkiyah.

This little set up (above) is so easy to assemble, and its a great way to start a class about menorah structure, rules, and vocab. Continue reading

Tortilla Torah Scrolls

Tortilla Torah

Tortilla Torah, by 3rd grader

I wrote about kid-created instant edible Torah Scrolls years ago, back when I could get away with a lot more sugar in the classroom. And, I’ve already talked about the holiday and why an edible Torah Scroll can be a good enrichment activity for Simchat Torah. When kids explore a real sefer Torah as model and special guest, they understand what they are re-creating and why.

This post is a simpler version. Less candy, less time, but actually more fun. And, kids get to be a scribe / sofer with their own Torah scrolls by writing with food-safe ink.  Continue reading

Etrog Recycling Projects (after Sukkot)

Etrog half, peel and seed

Etrog half, peel and seed

We are lucky if we have an etrog.  We are obscenely lucky if we have 15 of them. After Sukkot my 2nd and 3rd graders got to explore leftover congregational etrogim in class: boxes and boxes of glorious, weird, bumpy, fragrant, delicious and gorgeous etrogim.

Look at some of the neat things we are doing: Continue reading

Group build: LEGO model sukkah setup

LEGO sukkah classroom trays

buffet of sorted components, including real twigs

I’ve written about LEGO sukkahs (and a bunch of other kinds of kid-created tabletop versions), but I just realized I didn’t report about our classroom LEGO sukkah build last year. Continue reading

Yom Kippur Scapegoat Activity

private mistakes are written underneath

private mistakes are written underneath

Boy, did I hesitate posting this one. “Scapegoat” seems to be one of those code words that bring out the religiously, um, fervent faster than you can say “proselytize.” Context and intention are everything. I just want to help introduce the bizarre concept of the Yom Kippur scapegoat to appropriately aged children and to tweak the idea to be a useful tool for teshuvah. (What’s teshuvah? My working definition is “turning” toward the right path and good behavior as we assess our deeds of the past year. The goal is to be the best [insert own name here] we can be.) Continue reading

Yom Kippur Mini Catapult

to practice "hitting the mark"

to practice “hitting the mark”

I’ve used craft stick catapults for Lag B’Omer, but this year I needed a quick, thematic craft for 2nd graders right before Yom Kippur.

Yom Kippur liturgy features archery imagery: missing the mark (“al chet,” which is the closest thing Hebrew has to the word “sin”) and hitting the mark. Torah is sometimes translated as “to take aim.” Continue reading

Bees for Rosh Hashanah

bee models for art, for honey, for disscussion

bee models for art, for honey, for disscussion

My dream is to bring a hive of bees to school for a pre-Rosh Hashanah exploration. Or even better, to bring the kids to a hive, especially to a hive nestled near an organic garden. Until then, I have to make do with dead bees, honeycomb and honey in the art room. Continue reading

Apple and Honey Practice and Taste Test

Apple and Honey practice

Apple and Honey practice

I was fiddling with a bunch of materials I’d collected—mostly recyclables—trying to come up with a craft my Sunday School classes could do in 25 minutes. Something connected to Rosh Hashanah, something meaningful, useful, decent-looking and 100% fun to make. I spent hours fine-tuning a “cute” craft we’ve all seen on Pinterest, but I just couldn’t make it kid-friendly enough so that even the Kindergarteners could do all the work themselves. And, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was doing something wrong. Continue reading

Tie-Dye Challah Covers (with kids and free dye)

diluted acrylic paint

diluted acrylic paint

Did you know you can (sort of) make fabric dye with acrylic paint? This trick turns even ancient acrylic into gorgeous tie-dye for free. I found out by accident.
Bottom line: I used old paint to “squeeze-bottle tie-dye” challah covers with kids while we stood over a sink. It was easy, it was gorgeous, tidy, and it was free.

Continue reading

Marker Mitzvah: Making Liquid Watercolors

“do not dink or you will die”

In conjunction with our big, ongoing Marker Mitzvah program—where we collect the school’s dead markers and ship them for conversion into diesel fuel—we keep some dry markers for use in the art room.

What do we do with dead markers? We make mezuzah cases (which I’ve written about here) and we make FREE, gorgeous liquid watercolors. Even the driest of dry marker will leach plenty of color into a bottle of water. Continue reading

Marker Mitzvah Project: Converting Crayola

Marker Mitzvah display at school program

Marker Mitzvah display at school program

Here’s an easy mitzvah project I started with our 3rd graders, and it benefits the entire school. The mitzvah is B’al Tashcheet—”do not destroy”—and what we are trying to “not destroy” is the Earth: we’re saving oodles of markers from the landfill. Continue reading

Dryer-Lint Fire-Starters (Fun With Trash for Lag B’Omer)

roadkill fire-starter

roadkill or wax-soaked lint?

[Making flammable treasure from trash, with kids.] Continue reading

Swim Noodle Omer Counter

Omer counter PVC swim noodle

swim noodle omer

Count the omer with swim noodles!  I needed a BIG omer counter for a classroom (and maybe the school entrance, too), and this is it. I love abacus-style omer counters because it is a pleasure to slide something across something: I feel like I’ve counted, I’ve moved, I’ve gone from here to there. All the more so with swim noodle “cookies” and my beloved PVC pipe. The two materials create just enough friction. Continue reading

Yom means Day, ha means the, Shoah means Holocaust

2nd grade artwork

2nd grade artwork

The email said that today’s Hebrew School would start with a meeting to explain to the kids why there would be no outdoor play for awhile—because on Monday someone fired a bullet into our synagogue—and would end with candle-lighting for Yom HaShoah. My kid had not heard of either: the bullet or the Holocaust. So, today, Continue reading

Rainbow Loom Omer Counter

Rainbow loom omer bracelet: one rubber band per day

Rainbow loom omer bracelet: one rubber band per day

I made this today just to feel what it would be like to count the omer via Rainbow Loom. It felt fiddly, but worthwhile. Mindful. I had to pay attention and I had to make decisions about color coding. Some kids will like this, some kids will flee in the opposite direction. My own child preferred to watch Pokemon rather than experiment with me, but hey, Pokemon. Continue reading

LEGO Omer Counters, DIY

LEGO omer counter

LEGO omer counter: from Passover to Shavuot

LEGO omer counters. I couldn’t find any, so I made some up. LEGO is ideal for an omer counter because it is inherently irresistible and in any decent-sized LEGO bin at home are bound to be 49 somethings with which to mark each day of the count. Continue reading

Omer Counters for Kids, a Roundup (please add yours)

from Pesach to Shavuot

from Pesach to Shavuot

I have post-seder ennui—worse than the usual Passover prep hangover—and I need a new challenge: an omer counter. I’m looking for a design that is group-friendly, and that doesn’t require us to buy any materials. Ideally, I want BARLEY in it: real barley groats, real barley stalks to remind us of the omer origins. I already have both. But kids aren’t going to be pushing each other out of the way for the chance to open a matchbox to grab . . .  a groat. Continue reading

Roast the Seder Plate Egg (kids)

Roast a beitzah (egg) to take home for your seder plate

Roast a beitzah (egg) to take home for your seder plate

Why let kids dangle boiled eggs over fire?
To candle-roast an egg is a quick, hands-on connection to what the seder plate egg symbolizes. It’s weird, it’s memorable and it is a kid magnet.

Continue reading

Seder-Step Program for School Families

Seder step stations

Seder step stations

I nearly called this post “Passover Carnival,” but was afraid you’d get the wrong idea. The wrong idea is a spree with lice races, chocolate matzah painting, origami frogs, and crafts. Continue reading

Open the [LEGO] Door for Elijah

Open the [LEGO] door for Elijah

Open the [LEGO] door for Elijah

At our school’s Walk Through the Seder Steps program, two toy tableaux sat at the Hallel station. Hallel is the step where, appropriately enough, we sing Hallel and other songs of praise, and also when we open the door for Elijah. Continue reading