Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Nature of our Holidays

As the Garden Educator, I used to approach the High Holidays with trepidation.  Just as the month of Tishrei begins, I am faced with finding time to plant the fall garden at school.  So much work and so little time.  How do I balance the planting schedule with holiday experiences.  After all, as the Garden Educator I should be focusing on gardening, right?    Well,  I realized that the holidays have a lot to do with gardening.  During Tishrei, the gan is buzzing, literally, with pollinators.  The students witness the bees collecting pollen and nectar.  They understand the source of the honey that they taste when they dip apples during Rosh Hashanah.  In Dallas, we are fortunate to have local beekeepers, The Pollards, who visit with an enclosed beehive  and educate the children about the importance   of bees in our world.                    
The children spent months watching the pomegranate tree bursting forth with bright red-orange blooms.  Then  some time in the late summer, the blooms turn into fruit.  During Simchat Torah, they learn about the midrash that says there are 613 seeds in the pomegranate to help us remember the 613 mitzvot in the Torah.  They also learn that pomegranate is "rimon" in hebrew and the finials, or crowns, on the scroll are often called "rimonim"
And then comes the harvest festival of Sukkot.  Is there a better place to honor the holiday than in a gan?  In Gan Shalom, we have post holes that have sleeves and a cap.  Each year, we remove the cap and have ready to go post holes!  The children work together to bring the corner posts to the building site.  They carefully slip the post into the post sleeve.

Soon, all four corner posts are in place and we are ready for the walls.  Eventually, the roof is in place and the children make sure that they can see the sky through the openings.  This sukkah is built by the children and is just the right size for them.
 This year, I tried something different for sukkot.  Instead of just building and decorating the sukkah, the children participated in a dramatic story.  The story  helped the children understand the original purpose and use of a sukkah.  Please watch the video and hear the story of Ezra and Rivka.

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