I wrote about repurposing discarded Christmas trees as backyard wildlife cover—and with a Tu B’Shevat connection—at my nature site: Look Around. Should you care to read about the time I snuck a Christmas tree into Hebrew School, or about an easy way to dispose of stolen Christmas trees once spring springs, or my fantasy Burning Bush lesson plan, do take a look.
black oil sunflower seed, bamboo perch
Upcycled water bottles as birdfeeders are not new, so why am I sharing this?
Because this morning I sort of perfected them. My class of 2nd graders made a bunch and we had to be quick. So shall I: Continue reading
arranging our pressed, fall leaves
A giant, collaborative leaf-rubbing print for Tu B’Shevat. We tried this in Kindergarten last Sunday and it worked. Gorgeous. And, we still had time to make individual leaf-rubbing prints to take home. The 9-foot banner will hang at the school entrance to welcome students and visitors at Tu B’Shevat. Continue reading
carob pods, seeds and chips
Carob pods and carob chips for a taste (and smell and sound and sight and touch) of Tu B’Shevat.
Carob is a biggie for Tu B’Shevat. It’s a tree fruit native to the Land of Israel, it’s de rigeur at a Tu B’Shevat seder, and it’s part of the story about Honi the circle-maker lots of us read aloud on Tu B’Shevat. Continue reading
“every almond used to be a pink blossom”
I wouldn’t ordinarily write about a holiday project that’s been done (and done, and done), but I’m posting this to prove a point: that with just a smidge of “extra”—just a few props to provide context—even a quick, conventional activity can be more meaningful and memorable. Continue reading
A Tree Products Display for Tu B’Shevat can be an easy, effective way to show All The Things That Trees Give Us.* The display in our school lobby is a magnet: grownups and kids can’t help but fiddle with the hanukkah gelt, glue sticks and pinecones and such. Creating a display can be as quick or as protracted an activity as you wish. You learn, the kid working with you learns, and whomever sees your collection learns. Continue reading
faith in a seed
For Tu B’Shevat with my First Grade class, I wanted something hands-on, but not paper-based. Something thematic that links the Land of Israel with our own community, something the kids could make or do to gain a concrete reference point to a Jewish Spring holiday in the midst of a Nashville Winter. We’d already done nearly instant-gratification Tu B’Shevat gardening (eggshell garden), and I didn’t think they’d mind a project that required patience and uncertainty. Continue reading
quick, easy and visible plant life-cycle activity
Here’s a supplementary indoor gardening project for Tu B’Shevat. I swear by the Eat a Fruit, Plant the Seed project, and my version of the traditional Plant Tu B’Shevat Parsley for Passover project, of course. Both are hands-on and at the heart of the holiday. But, if you can program additional growy activities with your favorite kids, try this one, too. The nearly instant gratification is a contrast to the slow and iffy germination rates of parsley and fruit seeds.
What: Kids grow a nearly-instant, indoor, mini “garden” in an eggshell.
Why: to connect with Tu B’Shevat; to demonstrate the everyday miracle of seed germination; to grow food for us, for wildlife and for the earth. Continue reading
Here’s a quick list of links to my earlier posts for Tu B’Shevat. New ones coming soon…
pear seedlings from our snack
Eat a Fruit, Plant the Seeds: So easy. Cut open a fruit with your kid. Eat it, plant the seed. Of course, I mention a few Jewish-y choices of trees, but the important take-away is that THIS is where trees come from. Can’t get more thematic.
How (and Why) to Let Kids Plant Tu B’Shevat Parsley. Detailed how-tos here. I’ve a method that works without compromising hands-on learning or enthusiasm.
Find out why the go-to Tu B’Shevat planting activity is not about planting trees. Continue reading
Pear seedlings from our snack
See the teeny seedlings emerging? Two weeks ago, at the family Tu B’Shevat program I helped plan, we ate fruit and planted the seeds. Yesterday, one pear seed sprouted, and today, another. Baby trees!
For the program, I made little flags so each kid would remember which fruit seeds they chose:
I planted a ______ tree for Tu B’Shevat.
The child’s name goes on the popsicle stick above the dirt line. (We used colored pencils, which are made from trees. No Sharpies that day.)
I wrote about this activity in the post Eat a Fruit, Plant its Seeds for Tu B’Shevat. I know, I know, the resulting seedlings may not grow into fertile adults, what with commercial fruit propagation techniques and whatnot.
The important thing is for a kid to eat a fruit, plant the seeds, watch them sprout, and take care of them. So far, so good…
coconut topping, tree nuts, fruit fresh and dried
Last fall, I wrote about the kid-version of edible apple bowls used as a Rosh Hashanah honey dish. Apple bowls are easy to adapt for Tu B’Shevat. You and your child can hollow an apple—the paradigmatic tree fruit—and fill it with tree fruit salad. It’s easy with a melon-baller, and the only trick is not to get too energetic and pierce the peel from the inside. Kids can even prepare the fruit for the thematic contents using double-handled apple slicer/corer combos and Montessori-style slicing tools. Continue reading
a mini feeder with a mini birdfeeder, but for normal birds
And here’s the mini version of the Tu B’Shevat Pine-Cone Birdfeeder.
Our Playmobil model is shown holding a hemlock cone with a soy-butter shmear and a coating of millet. This hemlock, by the way, is not the poisonous herbaceous plant that clocked poor Socrates, but the lovely and benign conifer tree. Hemlocks also come in handy for decorating tabletop sukkot: the leaflets look like mini pine boughs for schach. Continue reading
again with the pinecone
Oh my gosh, I just can’t help myself. I am on fire with the pine-cones, people.
The simple How-To for the Tu B’Shevat Pine-Cone Birdfeeder is at the end of my previous post. It’s the reward for wading through the Ecology and the Rabbinics.
This late-night post about the Materials is a bonus. Lucky you. Below, I present annotations so obsessive that even I edited them out the first time.
Notes from an overkeen Sunday School teacher:
• Pine-cone. I’m trying to restrain myself here. I want to urge everyone to get a tree field guide and run out to the woods. Cones come in range of sizes, prickliness, and stickiness. (If you find a White Pine, watch out for sticky pitch that I guarantee will never, ever come out of your child’s LLBean parka, not even with lye soap.) Continue reading
Heaven forbid I come across as the Earnest Craft Lady. Is that what’s happening? I fear so, especially when the best bits of my articles are removed in the editorial process. By best bits I mean midrashim, ecological interplay, words like insectivorous and other goodies. Alas, what remains are earnest how-tos peppered with exclamation marks. I am grateful any of my work is accepted for publication anywhere, truly, but it is a relief to know I have an outlet here. The beauty (and the horror) of a blog is that the blogger is editor. And here, forthwith, is the uncut version of the Tu B’Shevat Pine-Cone Bird-feeder, best bits and all. Continue reading
Posted in Tu B'Shevat
Fruit Shakers, Runts, and gummy worms
I wrote an article about using candy as an “enrichment” activity for Tu B’Shevat at Kveller.com: Tu Bishvat in Candy Land. Do read it. The hate mail I received as a result of the article indicates that the haters did not read it, else they would have learned that I do not propose that candy representations of actual tree fruit should replace traditional observance of Tu B’Shevat. Nor do I think that to let kids crush Oreos to produce “Edible Dirt” is an acceptable alternative to planting real seeds in real dirt. The word “enrichment” is a clue, my vigilant friends. Continue reading
- earliest spring leaves emerging now
In How (and Why) to Let Kids Plant Parsley on Tu B’Shevat, I nattered on about the meaning behind growing parsley on the Birthday of the Trees. Because, really, isn’t it weird that a parsley project is the go-to activity for a holiday about trees? But in a nutshell, the big idea is this: to germinate parsley on Tu B’Shevat links the earliest of Spring holidays—when the sap/lifeforce begins to wake after winter—and Passover, the paradigmatic Spring holiday. Parsley is Spring on a seder plate. It is the most common representation of the karpas category, without which a seder can’t happen. Makes perfect sense, this link and its timing, but still, tree it ain’t. (Well, a curly parsley stalk does rather look like a miniature tree.)
Better we should grow a tree on the Birthday of the Trees, yes? And what if the tree could be an olive or date or fig or pomegranate: four of the Seven Species of the Land of Israel (Deut. 8:8), the rock stars at a Tu B’Shevat seder? How brilliant to grow an olive tree especially, whose fruit could give us oil to light Hanukkah menorahs. Or a an almond tree, the early bloomer celebrated in Israel on Tu B’Shevat. Or a citron tree to grow an etrog for Sukkot. Or a palm or willow or myrtle to harvest for our own lulav. Chills. Continue reading
Tu B’Shevat parsley for Pesach karpas
Tu B’Shevat is the New Year and/or Birthday of the Trees, but the classic Tu B’Shevat planting activity doesn’t really have much to do with trees. We plant parsley. All over America, little Jewish kids plant parsley seeds on Tu B’Shevat. Sounds like Sunday School in Chelm, right? But it does make sense. To germinate parsley seeds and use the plant two holidays later as the karpas on a Passover seder plate connects our earliest Spring holiday to our main Spring holiday, and it lets kids get their fingers dirty fostering green life from dormant seeds. Tu B’Shevat is the official start of the agricultural year, when tree sap (and all lifeforce by extension) begins to rise after winter rest.
Parsley, though, is not a tree. It’s easier, folks say, easier than Continue reading
Photo: 322 acres of old-growth forest in Nashville. Friends of Warner Parks are trying to raise money to buy it, and are about 1.6 million short.
Tu B’Shevat is tomorrow: the Fifteenth of the month of Shevat.1 It is one of the harder Jewish holidays to pronounce, even for grown-ups. The Toddler blurbles something like “Shot.” Thanks to the PJ Library —long may it prosper— he’s been reading a board book about Tu B’Shevat, so he already knows it is a day to plant trees. He’s got a small acorn and a big acorn ready to go. Continue reading