Sunday, October 6, 2013

Book Time for Experiential Learning

Even though I live (at least) 6,000 miles away, I do travel to the States every year, keep up with many of you through email, and read about Jewish educational trends. While the PEW survey is the latest talk of the town, a careful examination of the results shows that there's a direct tie-in to another discussion -- the need for experiential learning in Jewish education.

I've heard from many of you about the latter and the need for it. All I can say is: you are so right! To make a positive Jewish impact on your children/students' lives you need engaging activities.  So, please excuse me if I take a week off from posting customs or interesting news from Israel for kids, and use this opportunity to plug my books. Much more than just a library title, they are alternative textbooks for the classroom, not to mention fun books to have at home.

I'll start with the Bible.

Tasty Bible Stories offers a delicious way of bringing the Bible to life. Read each story in the book (every one is written in a breezy, hip tone) and combine it with a cooking class by whipping up the matching recipes following each tale. It's definitely a way to get your students to sink their teeth into Bible stories.

Green Bible Stories for Children brings the Bible to a different level, making it relevant to 21st century ecological concerns. From bio-diversity to noise pollution, this eye-opening book shows that even long ago the Bible provided the original blueprint for environmental protection. This book consists of eight engaging stories told in a kid-friendly fashion, each of which is followed by 2-3 relevant, easy-to-do experiments or projects.

Next on the list -- Jewish Holiday Customs

My love for holiday customs did not start with this blog.  It all began with this book.

By reading Passover Around the World together with your students/children you will be able to create an unforgettable model seder in school or family seder at home. Take a trip across the globe by reading stories dealing with playful customs created by Jewish communities from as far as Iran to as close as your own backyard in North America. Can a child in the 21st century experience what it was like for the Children of Israel? In virtual terms, yes, if you follow the traditions in this book. And don't forget the delicious recipes accompanying each custom!

Hanukkah Around the World puts a different spin on this holiday that is so often referred to as the "December Dilemma" (fortunately, not this year). Why connect Hanukkah with Ho, Ho, Ho gifts when it has a story all of its own rooted to Israeli soil? Even better -- a variety of interesting, fun-loving customs created by Jews as far away as Australia and Italy. I especially love the Italian custom because it literally ties in with Tisha B'Av -- an important memorial day that never makes it to the Jewish school curriculum because it occurs during the summer. Finally, you will have a chance to make a meaningful connection but you'll have to get the book to find out how and why. Is there a food angle as well? Yum, yum, yes, with a recipe for every story.

Family Stories -- The Glue that Binds the Jewish People

Last week a friend of mine brought up an article recently published by the New York Times. Dealing with family stories, it reinforced the importance of giving children a sense that they are part of a larger family. Family tales ground children by giving them a feeling of stability and continuity -- exactly the ingredients we Jews need for the continuity of our people. For the past six years I have been going around the United States, giving presentations on my Jewish Heirloom Stories.

Each of these books -- Lotty's Lace Tablecloth and Mayer Aaron Levi and His Lemon Tree -- deals with a specific Jewish value revolving around an unconventional heirloom and the story behind it.  My presentation on these books is one of my most popular "talks" because I give kids an assignment -- bring in a family heirloom and tell the story behind it. It's not just the kids who love doing this "homework." It's the parents as well. They are eager to tell family tales.  These books provide them with the perfect venue by offering pages at the back of each book to write down a personal story. How do I know these books are valuable additions to every child's personal library? Lotty's Lace Tablecloth was recently made a PJ Library selection.

Find out about my other books by taking a virtual book tour. Interested in a presentation on Shabbat Customs Around the World? Perhaps a virtual author visit? I offer these as well. All you have to do is contact me to get more information.

Thanks for giving me this opportunity to explain how I can be part of your experiential learning program.
Bye for now. I'll be back next week with a new holiday custom.
Kol Tuv.

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