Friday, January 26, 2018

Shabbat Around the Table -- Beshalach

This Shabbat is commonly referred to as Shabbat Shira, or Shabbat of Singing. In parsha Beshalach, the Israelites break into song after safely crossing the Sea of Reeds and escaping Pharaoh's army. They express their love and gratitude to God by singing, 

"Who is like You, O Lord, among the celestials; 
Who is like You, majestic in holiness, 
Awesome in splendor, working wonders!
You put out Your right hand,
The earth swallowed them.
In Your love You lead the people You redeemed;
In Your strength You guide them to Your holy abode."

Many say this is when the Jewish people are born. At this moment, the escaped slaves become a people united by a profound, shared, holy experience. In this moment, of relief, exhaustion, and awe, they sing. Led by Miriam, the women take up timbrels dance. 

Children love to sing and dance and bang on percussion instruments. Too often, we ask them to "quiet down." Instead of quieting down this Shabbat, sing extra loud. Maybe even add a little dance to your dinnertime routine. Tell your children about Miriam and the Israelites. In doing so, you're connecting your children and yourselves to our ancestors, their joy, and a defining moment in Jewish history.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Shabbat Around the Table -- Bo

This week's parsha is both familiar and frightening. Bo tells the story of the final three of the ten plagues: locusts, darkness, and death of the firstborn. As happens often with our biblical tales, there are components of this story that we try to make relatable for our children, like frogs and lice and locusts all over Pharaoh. We say, That's yucky! And silly! Then there are those components that we just can't, like a river full of blood. Or maybe don't want to, like the death of all the firstborn.

So what do we do when sharing these stories with our children? Do we skip over the strange and scary parts, or change them up to make them more palatable? Or do we just present the stories as they are written?

I think we present the tale as is, and don't apologize for it. If a character in Torah behaves badly, it's necessary to call them out on it. If a moment in Torah is scary, it's appropriate to talk about how that feels. And if the story is just downright perplexing, it's important to ask your child what they think about it. The Torah is a sacred document to many, but fundamentally it's a series of stories about people who lived a long time ago. There's always something new to learn from their lives, even if sometimes the lesson is not to make the same choice they did. Children take from stories only that which they're ready to understand, therefore your child's understanding of the complexities and nuances of Torah will grow as they grow. Don't be afraid to challenge them now.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Introducing our STEAM Lab!

Back in late summer, I wrote that thanks to the incredible generosity of our families and community members, this year "each classroom will get new toys   . . . many of which will be math and science oriented. Last year we’d noted that we needed more of those kinds of toys in the classrooms. To that end, we’re going to take advantage of an unused classroom this year and equip it with a variety of math, science, engineering, and art supplies. This multi-purpose room will start out small, but hopefully grow to be something that truly sets Agudas Achim Preschool apart from every other preschool in Alexandria."

I am happy to announce that our science, technology, engineering, art, and math room -- or STEAM Lab -- is officially open!

Our consultant, my friend and Agudas Achim congregant Sherri Kohr, and I spent the fall brainstorming, planning, purchasing, unpacking, and organizing. This week, Kitot Katom, Kachol, and Turkiz and the Sha'at Mischak Giraffes spent time exploring the Lab; next week the other classes will have their turn. See below for pictures, and stay tuned for many more updates about our STEAM Lab as it continues to grow and evolve.

The STEAM Lab has a lot of open space for building large structures that wouldn't fit in the classrooms.

I found macrame at Upcycle in Alexandria. Right now we're exploring it. Who knows what it will become? 

Loose Parts! The building station is currently outfitted with a variety of materials that have no predetermined purpose or outcome, which encourages the children to be more creative and innovative.

Of course, we saved all the boxes.

The sensory table -- full of unraveled VHS tape, tinsel, metal containers, and magnets -- became a full body experience for one friend.

Our creation station is equipped with lots of materials of different thicknesses and textures for cutting.

The Light Laboratory allows for endless experimentation and exploration.

We have a starfish, a bird's nest, shells, insects, and more at our exploration station.

Friday, January 5, 2018

A BIG Pile of Leaves

Just a few days after the first snowfall of the year, and one day after the coldest, we were ready for our "special" fire drill. This was a fire drill we were having with the fire department so they could test their response time. 

The teachers were ready. The kids were ready. We were all ready to be cold. Really cold. It was about 30 degrees outside, no sun, and little windy. We'd bundled up ahead of time: coats, hats, mittens. The alarm went off; we walked outside. Standing around, waiting to hear when we could go back in, teachers and children talked and laughed as a way to pass the time. 

Then, a teacher spotted it, behind the back parking lot, behind the trees, near the rabbi's house. A leaf pile. A giant leaf pile. The biggest leaf pile we'd ever seen! You know what happened next. 

Two teachers lost cell phones, and four children lost shoes, but, miraculously, all were found. The only thing that would have made the experience more perfect was hot chocolate afterwards. 

Next time.

Outdoor Magic

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