We burned a bush in Third Grade today. As in, the Burning Bush. My goal was to make the Torah story more personal, memorable. Goal met. My goal was not to make the entire school wonder if the building was on fire, or to make our police office hunt me down, but that happened, too.
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.
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.
Posted on09/03/2015|Comments Off on Bees for Rosh Hashanah
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 →
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 →
Posted on01/28/2015|Comments Off on Tu B’Shevat Collaborative Leaf-Rubbing Banner
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 →
Here’s a nifty way to re-purpose your now superfluous lulav after Sukkot: a Lulav Chain for next year’s sukkah. All-natural, thematic, respectful (to a ritual object) and genuinely pretty. No staples, no glue. I find it strangely soothing to assemble the links as fast as possible, but taken at a leisurely pace, even older kids can join in and help “re-cycle.” Continue reading →
Fish is a symbol of the Jewish month of Adar, the month in which we 1) celebrate Purim and 2) freak out that Passover is so close. Why fish? From the astrological sign, Pisces. I’ve always thought it seemed a bit fishy that astrology gives us a kosher Jewish symbol, but Pisces is right there on the calendar. It’s legit. Continue reading →
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 →
Havdalah is a lovely, quick, slightly spooky service that marks the distinction between the end of Shabbat and the beginning of the work week. Each Saturday night morphs from Sacred Time to Ordinary Time whether we mark it or not. But to mark it with Havdalah can be fun, memorable and oh-so-kid-friendly (especially in the winter when sundown happens earlier in relation to bedtimes).
10 year-old etrog pomander and a fresh one, awaiting puncture
Sukkot’s over. Did you buy an etrog? Or did your school or synagogue buy one? If so, don’t pitch it on the compost pile. You and your kid can repurpose it into a nifty spice pomander for Havdalah. It’s a nice way to extend Sukkot (and the harvest’s bounty) to a Jewish service/ceremony that happens every single week. The spices of Havdalah—called besamim—are supposed to be natural materials that smell lovely enough to console us for the loss of Shabbat and to kickstart a good week ahead. A clove-studded etrog can Continue reading →
Mitzvah Project—The Tza’ar ba’aley Chayim Birdbath—a quick or slow nature project for home or school.
So subtle, I had to add an arrow
Until yesterday, my synagogue didn’t have a bird bath or any other water source for animals. I haven’t seen one in the 20 years I’ve been a member. Our courtyard is a perfect place for informal birdwatching: surrounded by classroom windows on two sides, and the Internet Cafe and school entrance on the third. I’m a Volunteer Tennessee Naturalist. I think about this sort of thing alot. It would have been so easy to buy and install a birdbath by myself in less than an hour, and bingo: water for wildlife. Or, I could make it a Mitzvah Project in a slow way, a participatory way, a way that makes for several active lesson plans, and that can foster a student’s sense of investment, stewardship, community and empowerment. Continue reading →
Posted on02/04/2013|Comments Off on Tu B’Shevat almond “Sow and Tell,” home or school
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 →
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.
From JOANNA BRICHETTO:
My goal is to help kids and grownups spend time together making Jewish things. I like stuff that is hands-on, attractive, non-fussy, cheap and real, and so fun no one realizes it's educational.
The value is in the doing, not just the being done, and in the conversations and questions that happen along the way. Every project comes with helpful and (hopefully) pleasant chatter, because my native compulsiveness and enthusiasm means that I’ve given the meaning, function, and possible permutations a lot of thought. You won’t need to do much planning, because I’ll have done it for you.
LEGO minifig Passover seder table
Defining the Terms
Balabusta, n. (bal-eh-boos’-teh)
Yiddish for female boss of the home,
a praiseworthy Jewish homemaker.
Bible Belt, n.
where I am, and where most Jews aren’t.
For details, see "Nu?"
It doesn’t matter if you don’t live in the Bible Belt. The geographical modifier is a flag to indicate that the author is used to being outnumbered, without resources, and thus able to do just about anything from scratch. Newbies welcome. I used to be one, long ago.