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Growing and harvesting potatoes to fry up delicious Chanukah latkes has become a favorite annual tradition at Schechter. This year the Early Childhood classes took the lead planting potato sprouts in the late summer. The children enthusiastically cared for and watered the potato plants in the outdoor garden center. The wonder and excitement on the faces of the children when they spotted the first green leaves and purple flowers was priceless.
As the weather cooled down, we moved the plant bags indoors to our “greenhouse” (the front hallway). Each week, EC classes shared the task of keeping the plants well watered, a job that the Dubonim class (EC2) especially loved! The potato plants grew and grew! The T'marim class (EC3-4) was so amazed by the transformation of the plants that they decided to sketch them and hang their still life drawings beside the plants. By early December, as the potatoes began to emerge from under the soil, the children were excited to spot them. Evan, from Sh’kedim (EC3-4), observed, "there are so many and they are huge!"
Last week the EC children harvested the potatoes. Andrea guided the children as they dug in the dirt to discover potatoes of all different sizes and colors that had been growing under the soil. The children were so excited to harvest the fruits of their labor, discovering potatoes that were large, tiny, red, purple, and black. After collecting their potatoes, each class sorted (by size or color), counted, and compared the potatoes. The Sh’kedim class even played a game of “Hot Potato” with their batch!
All the Early Childhood classes are looking forward to making - and eating - latkes during Chanukah to bring this experience full circle!
Dubonim (EC2) is really getting into the Chanukah spirit! Students worked together to create a chanukiyah that they will put a candle on each day; they have been using Chanukah candles to count, explore, play with, and “light.” They have many favorite Chanukah stories that they read together, and of course they sing the blessings and Chanukah songs.
In Dubonim, the children love art and hands-on projects, so much of Chanukah focuses on that. They painted frames for a gift for their mommies, daddies, and mamas, took photos of themselves holding a chanukiyah, and even painted the wrapping paper! They made Chanukah- themed oil sensory bottles and Chanukah cookies. Naturally, they made latkes from the potatoes they grew and harvested (see article above). Finally, they all wore blue to celebrate their monthly color day, painting the blue page in their color journals using Chanukah cookie cutters.
T’marim (EC3-4) is connecting Chanukah and science! The children investigated what happens when you drip droplets of colored water into oil. It was fascinating to see the different techniques each student chose and the colors/designs that emerged.
Sh’kedim (EC3-4) expressed their creativity by building inventive chanukiyot from blocks. While some of the block structures closely represented a traditional chanukiyah, other block creations were massive, with different sections to hold candles, favorite friends, and other items.
Parparim students (grades K-1) made wood chanukiyot, then decorated them with paint and their Hebrew initials. Each student took home their chanukiyah along with a laminated copy of the brachot in order to light handles with their family. In addition, their imaginations went wild as they created their own dreidels out of K'nex!
Rimonim class (grades 2-3) brought festive decorations into the hallway, making a huge chanukiyah from recycled materials. Teachers Michal and Kate combined forces for an interdisciplinary conversation about Chanukah and Growth Mindset including reflection about how the Macabees got over their concerns about the oil and how do they get over their own fears and worries. And of course, knowing Rimonim, they baked Chanukah-themed cookies and made latkes… yum!
Gesher class (grades 4-5) rotated through a variety of activity centers that were artistic, strategic, and philosophical. Students played rounds of the dreidel game, completed a Chanukah word search, made festive decorations, and created artwork that inspired students to reflect upon two questions: how can you light up the world? and what lights up your world?
Habonim students (grades 6-7) delved into mostly primary sources for text study as well as a close examination of historical events preceding the Maccabean revolt to learn about the "real" story of Chanukah. According to their findings, it is doubtful that the revolt was against the Hellenization of Judea; in addition, there is ample reason to question the veracity of the story of the ‘cruse of oil.'
The 6th graders of Habonim Spanish class learned about the origin of the song “8 Kandelikas” by Flory Jagoda, a song that describes 8 days of matchmaking parties for Sephardic Jews in Sarajevo. They compared and contrasted Sephardic and Ashkenazi traditions and learned that Sephardic Jews use olive oil to fry bimuelos (fritters). They also learned why borekas (cheese pastries) are traditional: they commemorate the miracle of Judith, who tricked the enemy leader of the Jews by giving him salty cheese, then quenching his thirst with lots of wine before she killed him.
Bogrim students (grade 8) examined texts which deal with many laws and customs related to Chanukah. For example, how many chanukiyot we should light and why?
Latkes and RELISH: This event has become an annual favorite for the Schechter community! Our own enthusiastic Jason Kay, father to three Schechter students and a member of the Board of Trustees, donned his famous Chanukah suit and led us virtually in a Havdalah service followed by Chanukah candle-lighting and songs before participants broke into different rooms for age-specific activities. Who knew scavenger hunts at home could be so fun?! Kol hakavod to Rogow Middle School students Ellie and Zelia for developing a Kahoot Chanukah trivia contest. It was a great way to celebrate Chanukah as a Schechter community.