Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Bursting with Excitement Omer Counting

The girls and I have created a variety of Omer charts, like the one here or here or here.
This time we have really made the very best, most fun, exciting, and educational omer chart ever! A Balloon Omer Counter!  I won't forget to count because all my children will excitedly remind me.  Every night before bed they will have a fun, bonding experience, do a mitzvah, learn something, work to improve ourselves, and giggle together. And the room looks like a celebration. Total win!!!
Each night we make the beracha together. Then one girl pops that night's balloon.
Inside the balloon are slips of paper. One paper is a meditation on that day's omer. One is a fun science fact. One is a joke. Sometimes there are stickers too.  I chose these inserts based on the girls interested. C is very into balloons and confetti balloons. G loves science facts. R loves jokes, especially if she can read them. T loves opening the unknown (like LOL dolls and Hatchimals). I wanted the omer meditation. 

If you want to use these inserts, this is the document I made.

I printed the inserts on different colored papers and cut them into strips. Then I gathered balloons, sharpies, yarn, and some helpers.

 The littles helped roll the papers and insert them into balloons. This was a numeracy experience as two papers are numbered. C blew them up and labeled each balloon in sharpie with the appropriate number. I couldn't have done it without her. I supervised and tied each balloon on with a slipknot.

Getting them upstairs and mounted was more challenging than we anticipated.

But it is done and so much fun!

Happy Omering!

A Giant Omer-bacus and other Torah STEM fun

Counting the Omer is a mitzva, a time for spiritual reflection, and marks our mounting excitement for Shavuot. In preschool it is an opportunity for numeracy and Hebrew number vocabulary.

I want to make counting the omer a very big deal in my preschool class.  Therefore we are making a giant omer abacus. A regular abacus is in base 10. For the omer it will be base seven.

Items needed:
pool noodles (ideally 7 different colors)
serrated knife (& cutting board)
permanent marker

strings and pushpins
pvc pipe

First we sliced the noodles into rings. This was surprisingly easy and fun. I cut them approximately 3 inches thick.
Tova was very excited about the mounting pile of pool noodle beads. She quickly began collected them and stringing them onto the PVC pipes. The holes in the noodles were a little stiff on the pipes and I asked her to stretch the hole so it could slide more freely. 

 She began making patterns (STEM!). Ruti quickly joined in the action, making a more complex pattern.

We weren't ready for adding the numbers yet, but learning and fun were definitely happening.

When all the beads were cut (fifty plus a handful of extras in case we made a mistake adding numbers) there was still more noodle. 

These I cut into small rings and gave the girls a box of toothpicks. 
They loved building, using the toothpicks to fasten the noodles.

 This alone was wonderfully engaging. Then they began testing the ability to float their structures.
"We should use these for Noach!" Gabi exclaimed. Or bathtime.
 Back to the abacus.

At school, a teacher patterned the bead onto the tubes. The students loved helping, announcing which color would appear next. 

Finally everything was lined up and the teacher labeled each number. 

Meanwhile, the students painted the wood planks.
Finally, when everything was dry, the students assisted with using a power screwdriver and assembling the frame. This power is always empowering. 

Everyone is excited about the results.

Thursday, 29 March 2018

A STEM Haggadah

Are you all ready for Pesach? Of course not! The list of things which require attention at Pesach time seems endless. I'm not here to help you clean, menu plan or decorate. I'm here to think about the children.
Small children always require attention.  And to be learning. And to actively engage in open-ended learning. And to have Torah values in all of their thoughts. And of course STEM learning. Since these priorities were all at the top of your Pesach prep list, I have helped you out with a STEM Haggadah and Pesach toy.

This Haggadah is a series of pattern block challenges. Pattern blocks were invented fifty years ago to enhance mathematical, geometric reasoning, critical assessment, and creative design. 

Hopefully you already own a set of pattern blocks. If not, Amazon can send them fast, like these or these. I made them for my students, die-cutting the shapes out of foam.  You could cut them from paper, but I am skeptical of the time and durability. 

Lay the pattern blocks inside of the Seder related images. Testing how to manipulate each of the six shapes to best create the picture. Creating their own images is part of the fun as well.

Children can use this Haggadah, before, during, and after the Seder to enhance their learning and keep them quietly engaged. You're welcome.

Print and enjoy!
Pattern Block Haggadah

Chag Kasher v'Sameach!

Friday, 5 January 2018

Shemot - Losing Freedom

Shemot begins the story of the Jewish enslavement in Egypt.  The girls, especially Tova, were particularly interested in this 'new king' and how could someone be so mean. 
"For our project we should make stuff for Paroh, like clothes or something," Ruti suggested.

This really was a lovely idea. But I couldn't find any cardstock paper, only reams of regular and it wouldn't work as well.
I brought out my Paroh doll and he began to yell at the girls. "I heard you wanted to make fancy clothes so you can look like me! No way! No one looks like me or is like me! I am the only Paroh and you are nothing but a slave. You must do this work for me!"
 I handed them pages from this print-out I compiled.

Here is an mini packet of Egypt work pages.

Everyone had to write a message in hieroglyphics. The little girls had to color a beautiful picture of Paroh and build 2 pyramids (and were given two paper templates). The big girls were given the word search and told to build 4 pyramids (from 2 templates).

The girls were thrilled with this assignment and rushed off gleeful to work. This was the final day of school break. Theoretically this vacation means lounging around, reveling in the lack of structure and responsibility. Complete freedom. But my children were not reveling in freedom. They were delighting in work, even fairly mindless work.

Ruti and Tova worked to please Paroh. Tova insisted he was a bad man who must be obeyed. Ruti insisted he must actually be good (I love how she looks for the good in everyone).  Gabi rebelled against him, rude and violent. Cohava worked to outsmart him. Regardless of how they felt about him, they worked to complete the assignment.

There is a question of how exactly the Jewish people came to be enslaved by Paroh.  A midrash recounted in Shemot Rabbah explains how Bnei Yisrael was tricked into slavery. Initially the Egyptians, even Paroh, were working with all of the Israelites. Everyone was eager to work towards a shared goal of building up Pitom and Ramses. But then Paroh and the Egyptians revealed it was a ruse and the Jews were now slaves, while everyone else were freed from the project. Frankly this midrash does not elucidate for me how Bnei Yisrael became slaves. But it does shed light on the way we throw around the term slave in modern parlance.

How does someone became a slave to their job, family, or fashion? It starts with enthusiasm towards a positive goal. Slowly the joy, enthusiasm, and support are disappear. Then one is enslaved in a situation of their own making. In many ways this slavery is easier to escape from. It does not require the Hand of God in the same way as the Exodus. But a slavery of our making is the hardest to recognize and extract ourselves from because the responsibility is on us and not on the Divine. First you have to acknowledge the slavery you have put yourself into. Then you must work to change mindset, situation, and often boundaries to work towards your freedom. [This concept could be deemed victim blaming. That is not the slavery I am referring to. Although some of these modern 'slaveries' are not entirely of one's own making, like a slave to rush hour traffic patterns, one can still be mindful to improve and change a situation.

Sometimes my daughter yells, "You are not the boss of me!" "Actually I am!" I often reply in the heat of the disagreement. But the truth is we are both off the mark.  A master or dictator's concern is only for himself.  A boss's concern is for the well-being of his company, with a focus towards profit. A parent's concern is the order of the family as a whole, the child in the present, and a mindfulness of the child's growth. The real different between the boss and the parent is the parent is (ideally) always considering the individual child's present and future success, not the boss' need to succeed himself.

Blogger is refusing to upload photos, so I shall stop here.

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Blessing Vayechi

Vayechi is focused Yaakov blessing his progeny.
"What does 'vayechi' mean?" I asked.  They worked the translation through.
'And he lived' "So he died or he moved," Cohava responded. She explained that if you say 'and someone lived' then it is always said past tense. They either lived and are now dead or they lived in x and now live in y. Her point was valid but she was a little annoyed that the passuk continues by explaining he is still alive. 
"But he knows the end of his life is soon."
"How does he know?" Gabi asked.
"Cuz he is old," Ruti explained. 
"When I came home I noticed a beautiful note on the playroom door. Can you tell me about it?" I responded.
(If you cannot see the picture/decipher guess spelling it says, "Live every moment like it is your last day on earth". -Bubby. In loving memory of Bubby.)
We discussed this quote of my grandmother's (and certainly many before her) and why Cohava decided to post it. We took time to talk about the recent, very shocking death of Jennifer (Leah bat Avraham) a beautiful (inside and out) 24 year-old from our community. 

We then took time to bless (or compliment) each other in turn around the table, as though we were each Yaakov. This was very sweet and meaningful and took the edge off a tense morning. I highly recommend trying it.

"Umm, that was -uh- nice, but umm, are we going to make -umm- something also?" asked Ruti, always concerned about others feelings but eager to do art.

We did a project, which did not have the strongest parasha connection but was fun, heavy on fine motor, and made a nice product.

We took the wood pieces left from my class hannukiyot and plotted the letters in Hebrew on them. (This went through variou test runs but finally we discovered that minimal marks were ideal.)

Then the girls hammered nails into the marked spots.

Spray paint.

Then the girls pulled rainbow loom rubber bands between the nails.

 Tada!  (It's our last name in Hebrew)

Gabi maturely decided early on that this project was not for her. She said, "You know how Yaakov assigns animals and symbols to his sons? Like spirit animals? I am going to make one for each of you."

She made beautiful art for each of us. She had a beautiful reason for each one. Ruti's height, grace, and love for nature made her a giraffe. Tova's grace and cheekiness made her a monkey. Cohava's agility and speed made her a deer. I was deemed a peacock for my love of colors and 'go big or go home' attitude. "

"What should Abba be?" asked Gabi.
"Maybe a bear?" I suggested.
"A polar bear, maybe," she contemplated.
"They don't migrate," remarked Ruti.
"Polar bears and arctic foxes are the only animals that don't migrate from the North Pole," she explained.  Those kindergarten teachers are amazing!