As I plan my lessons, foremost in my mind is how to take the natural approach. Incorporating nature in learning is a cornerstone of our school philosophy. And as the Garden and Life Science Educator, it is even more incumbent upon me to meet this challenge. Holidays pose a unique set of issues. How do I keep true to the spirit of the holiday, while at the same time, introduce a natural element.
Well, I go to the children for inspiration. We began our Chanukah exploration with the open ended question, "Tell me what you know about Chanukah?"
One boy said, " You get presents", another answered, "We talk about Maccabees". In response to the question of what you do during Chanukah, answers included, "eat latkes", "play dreidel", and "we light candles on the Chanukiah". I showed them a candle made from a sheet of beeswax. We identified the wick and the body of the candle. They looked at a picture of the inside of a bee hive. I told them that the wax is made by the bees. Some children responded that bees also make honey. I asked what holiday we dip apples into honey and they remembered the sweet taste during Rosh Hashanah. I explained that bees also help us celebrate Chanukah by giving us wax to make candles. The PreK and Three's made candles from sheets of beeswax and wicks. Each child rolled the wax around the wick. They discovered that the wax needed to be warmed so it was soft enough to roll without breaking. They took the candles home to help celebrate with their families.
The Two Year Olds had a sensory experience feeling strips of wax as it was warmed. They pressed the strips onto paper with wicks to create a collage. You can see from the picture that it took a lot of finger strength to get the wax to stick to the paper. It was hard work! Sometimes, we had to help a friend.
We made a few extra candles and created a Chanukiah. Again, we kept it natural by using a branch from the fig tree and slices of loofah gourds from our garden. We used egg shells from our hens and put it all together with a bit of hot glue.
After we had explored candles, I read the book, Harvest Of Light, by Kar-Ben. The photos and words tell the story of the olive harvest in Safed, Israel. At the end of the story, the family uses olive oil to light their Chanukiah.
We did an experiment to see if we could make the oil burn, just like in the Chanukah story. We also tasted olive oil.
The book explained that the green olives were not ripe and they don't taste very good. You have to pickle them before you eat them. We tasted green olives.
We learned that the dark olives are ripe and full of oil. We tasted the dark olives. One boy said it tasted like, "mmmmm".
So, at the end of the holiday, I look back and realize that the challenge can be met. Taking the natural approach can result in meaningful learning experiences.
Concepts: Chanukah, Chanukiah, wax, wicks, olives, olive oil
Skills: understanding hard and soft, following directions, vocabulary, fine motor, risk taking