Never too young to learn about Passover

April 20, 2018

Other News

At the Strelitz Early Childhood Education Center, Passover learning includes all of the children.

In the infant program, for example, one child, attracted by a dimpled faux matzah ball, crawled to an eye-level poster with matzah balls attached by Velcro… and pulled the ball off the wall. The teacher reattached and the baby pulled it off again. Soon, the baby did this by herself. The walking babies played with water and plastic frogs foreshadowing the song they will sing as two-year-olds when learning the Passover narrative. Babies can’t sing the words, but they can hear them and can certainly play with water and toys.

Movers and doers, the toddlers created a 3D replica of the parted Red Sea out of paper. During a Toddling Through Passover event for children and their parents, teachers set up the activity in the school’s gross motor room. Down the middle of the sea on dry land, they pushed balls and rolled and tumbled on mats. The themed sensory learning continued as they stuffed felt pillows and built gross motor skills sponging paint onto the covers. Toddlers also experienced the interplay of light and dark with a light table and dark glasses—an activity that refers to the plague of darkness in the Passover story.

In the preschool, which begins with two-year-olds and continues through pre-K, much of the narrative of the Exodus from Egypt is told through songs and whimsical books, with the learning child-centered. For example, children helped make matzah and challah and then compared and contrasted the two. What is yeast and why does it make things rise? Three-year-old students conducted an experiment to learn why. From age level to age level, the students created ritual objects that bring meaning and enrichment to Seder tables, including Seder plates, matzah trays and bags, afikomen covers, and Elijah cups.

The culmination of Passover learning in the preschool took place with a model Sederim. Two-year-old teachers led students in a community Seder where the ritual objects they learned about were used and heard a young child’s version of the Maggid. They participated in the storytelling through songs about working hard as slaves or telling Pharaoh to “Let my people go.” Three- and four-year-old students participated in an annual family model Seder. Parents and grandparents joined students at a meal of symbolic Seder foods, following the order of the Seder with a Haggadah designed to be user-friendly for both children and adults. While the Seder educated about both leading and participating in a meaningful Seder, it was also fun and interactive. All classes helped tell the Passover story and there was no telling where the afikomen would end up and how it would be ransomed back from the students who gleefully hid it away.

The Passover learning experiences in the Strelitz Early Childhood Education Center are a bridge to learning even more about this spring festival as students move out of preschool and into kindergarten and beyond. Strelitz Early Childhood Center is a constituent agency of United Jewish Federation of Tidewater

- Lorna Orleans, director SECEC

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