We are not even back in our classrooms and already another Jewish holiday is sneaking up on us. The holiday of Tu B’Shevat begins sundown on January 24 and ends sundown on the 25th. So with less than three weeks until this celebration of all things brown and leaf covered here are some tried and true ways to bring spring (HAHAHA) into your classroom.
Tu B’Shevat Seder
One of the most traditional ways to celebrate Tu B’Shevat is with a Tu B’Shevat Seder. Taking a page out of the Passover Seder, a Tu B’Shevat Seder has its traditions in Jewish mysticism (Kabbalah) but it is a great way to learn about the holiday and taste different traditional fruits and grains. There aren’t a lot of premade Tu B’Shevat Seders out there but this one A Seder for Tu B’Shevat I’ve seen in use for years. This book written by Harlene Winnick Appleman and Jane Sherwin Shapiro includes all the items you’ll need, stories, songs and blessings. Recommended age range is four and up.
Tu B’Shevat Packet
Looking for something a little more formal for your lesson on Tu B’Shevat and perhaps with a bit less prep work? Check out my Tu B’Shevat Packet on Teachers Pay Teachers. This packet was made for students grades two through six in the Hebrew school environment but would also work great for homeschoolers or tutoring sessions. This packet includes background information about the holiday and work pages. Students could complete this packet on their own or work through it as a class.
If you haven’t got time for a full fledged Tu B’Shevat Seder might I suggest a taste testing. I did this with my second graders last year and wow did those olives disappear fast. Whether you are doing a seder or taste testing please be sure to verify your school’s policies on bringing food in whether for Kashrut (Kosherness) or potential allergens. There are two ways to conduct a taste testing for Tu B’Shevat. You can have students try the Sheevat Hameeneem (The Seven Kinds) or offer fifteen kinds of fruit from three specific groups: Fruits with an inedible shell, fruits with an inedible pit or seed and fruits which are edible inside and out.
The Sheevat Hameeneem represent the seven different foods recognized for growing in Israel and include Wheat, Barley, Figs, Olives, Dates, Pomegranates and Grapes. Sometimes we have to get creative with how we present these foods to our students and for me and my co-teacher that meant wheat thins, barley and mushroom soup, pomegranate juice and fig newtons.
If you decide to go the route of the fifteen kinds here are a list of fruits that fit each grouping:
Fruits with an inedible shell: Tangerine, Kiwi, Walnut, Pomegranate, Pistachio, Grapefruit, Coconut, Peanut, Almond and Orange
Fruits with an inedible pit or seed: Peach, Avocado, Olive, Apricot, Plum, Date, Cherry and Mango
Fruits which are edible inside and out: Grape, Fig, Strawberry, Raisin, Cranberry, and Carob
Again please remember to double and triple check your school’s food policies. It is likely that you school is Nut Free, but each group of students have their own allergies (one of mine this year is allergic to chickpeas…could be an issue when teaching Israeli foods). Also another important safety tip be careful when serving carob, because students get very mad when they realize it isn’t chocolate.
Since where I live it is usually cold and snowy come Tu B’Shevat planting a tree is really not an option. So how do we get around this in our classroom? Bean planting! This is a super easy project you can do even with younger students. And don’t worry about the mess since this project is dirt free. You will need:
Beans (The preference seems to be for Lima), A Styrofoam Cup, Paper Towels and Water
Step 1: Have students decorate the Styrofoam cup with markers
Step 2: Soak a sheet of paper towel in the water
Step 3: Wrap the beans in the wet sheet of paper towel
Step 4: Place wet paper towel, with beans, into cup
Step 5: Place cups in a sunny spot and watch for sprouting
After we have “planted” our beans I usually send them home. Parents can choose to move their seedlings to a more permanent home after sprouting.
In my mind no Tu B’Shevat is complete without a viewing of Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax. This fanciful tale is always a big hit with students, especially in the elementary grades, and really embodies the message of Tu B’Shevat. The running time for this movie is 86 minutes so make sure you have enough class time to show it. I recommend a Sunday morning if possible since it gives you time to pause the movie to ask key questions (something I do which my students often get annoyed with…hehe) and/or have a class discussion afterwards. Make sure you book whatever film showing apparatus you need ahead of time, nothing is worse than forgetting to reserve the Smartboard…I know from experience. I also recommend getting a DVD copy of the film since internet connections can sometimes be a problem. Please be aware that you will likely be singing the songs from this film for the next week so just keep that in mind.
If for some reason you just do not have time to show a movie in your class try the book version of The Lorax. Same message in less time.
Buy a Tree
I am famous at my school for trying to build on my students secular school knowledge. When it comes to Tu B’Shevat usually it includes a math lesson. Math? Really? Since the first day of school my students have been bringing in pennies, dimes and even dollars to put in our class Tzedakah box. Come this time of year I ask my class if they would like to use our Tzedakah money to buy a tree in Israel. Doing this is actually a lot of fun since you get a certificate and can recognize your class for doing this wonderful mitzvah. Each tree costs $18.00 but on occasion there are special deals to get a free tree. When my class found out we were going to buy trees extra money came pouring in and we ended up buying 5 trees. So the math lesson then? Empty out some of the money from the Tzedakah box in front of each student and have them count it. Then write all the totals on the board and let the students add up the numbers. Its a good idea to count the money yourself ahead of time just to be sure. Then have your students figure out how many trees they can buy with the money they have collected. Once you are ready go to the Jewish National Fund website and buy your tree.
Another cool thing is you can have the students pick which forest the trees will be planted in such as the Children’s Forest or the Coretta Scott King Forest (giving you a great chance to talk about Martin Luther King JR whose holiday usually falls right before Tu B’Shevat).
Also while you are on the JNF website order one of their newly redesigned “blue boxes“. These do take a while to arrive but it will be a nice extra to have in your classroom come next Tu B’Shevat. Plus how many of us have the old versions in our classrooms? <<Raises Hand>>
Arbor Day Projects
Now in some cases, and Tu B’Shevat is one of them, we can look at secular activities to use for our classroom. Do a quick google search for Arbor Day projects and keep an eye out for some fun art projects you can do with your class. Pinterest is always a good source for ideas and I’ve taken some time to pin a few cross over project ideas here.
So regardless of the chilly temperatures, where I live it is currently 23 degrees and snowing, it doesn’t take to much to bring a bit of spring into your classroom. Tu B’Shevat is one of the holidays that frequently gets skipped over in Hebrew school so if you’ve got time try to give it a shot. No student is ever unhappy with a lesson that includes snacks and a movie.
Stay tuned for my next post which will include a list of recommended titles to read to your students for Tu B’Shevat.
Stay warm out there!
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