Contributed by Preschool Teacher Debbie Markland
As part of our MVIFI 2019 Summer Grant Team work on essentializing learning outcomes, the Preschool Grant Team (myself, Molly Collier, Kyla Ravenell and Sunshine Osella) redesigned how we celebrate holidays in our program.
We thought about where children are developmentally, and what they actually understand about holidays at their current age. We studied and shared with our staff and families ways that would be best to celebrate traditional holidays for our school such as Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc. Since we are a school grounded in Christian values, to give our children a more global experience, we decided to incorporate other, non-Christian holidays into our Preschool calendar to help children expand their view of the world.
While enrolled in the MV preschool, each mvlittle will learn about many other diverse holidays that are celebrated by others who may have different beliefs and traditions than her/his family. Once again, we looked at developmental stages to decide when our mvlittles would be able to understand the holiday.
The first(s) of these for the PreK 4/5 classes was Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. I contacted Ryan Rapaport, Class of 2021, who I knew celebrated Rosh Hashanah to see if he could help teach our students about this holiday. He shared that “the tables had turned” as his mom used to come into his class when he was younger and teach his classmates about Rosh Hashanah.
Before Ryan’s visit on Monday, our classes completed a visual thinking activity on a shofar. They didn’t know what it was until Ryan came across the street to read a story about Rosh Hashanah, tell us about his family traditions, tell us about the shofar and enjoy some challah bread, apples and honey. We also listened to a Rabbi playing the shofar during a synagogue service.
All of the mvlittles enjoyed having Ryan share his traditions with us. Some of them had seen people nearby their homes that had been walking to the temple the day before and loved making a connection when Ryan shared that traditionally those celebrating the holiday don’t drive during Rosh Hashanah. Of course, having challah bread, apples and honey to welcome the Sweet New Year was a favorite! And Ryan taught them all the traditional new year sentiment – Shana Tova! We enjoyed using this phrase throughout the day!