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Dear Parents,
We want more than ever to see you and your children! It’s so strange to begin a year of learning without your families gathered together for assembly, class, and community celebrations. We just didn’t feel like we could do it given the realities of COVID-19.

Therefore, we developed a program that is flexible, engaging, meets our students’ diverse needs, and fosters community. This is an experiment – our best thinking to meet the challenges of this time.

Why this is important
As COVID-19 disrupts so many parts of our lives, life feels uncertain and confusing for our kids. Racial injustice and anxiety about the upcoming presidential election also raise deep concerns. This year we are tailoring our curriculum to address the world around us. We will provide safe, creative opportunities for learning that are grounded in Jewish values. We’ll still teach Jewish holidays, spiritual practices, and Hebrew, but our concentration will be on creating a Jewish framework for learning with space to discuss Jewish ethics and difficult issues at this time. 

Individualized student plans with multiple opportunities for Jewish learning and experiences
Parents and students will meet with a family advisor to create a learning plan that meets the students’ needs. We understand that parents' ability to be involved will vary, so we will tailor the plan to meet parents’ needs as well. It will be roughly the same amount of learning as our regular Bet Sefer program, but it will be more flexible. We’ll offer virtual classes, family field trips, social action and acts of kindness projects, at home holiday kits, independent learning, and short online community gatherings. We’re keeping our Hebrew tutoring program for kids in 3rd-6th grade.

What this looks like in practice
It’s kind of like “choose your own adventure.” At the beginning of each semester, the family advisor will contact parents about meeting to create a learning plan. If your child can’t look at one more screen, you’ll choose activities from our holiday kit or with books that we recommend, and you might add in a family field trip or two. If your child is eager to debate ethical issues in the time of a pandemic or Jewish approaches to activism, a Zoom class will be in order. It’s hard to keep track of things and stick to a plan, so we’ll give you a monthly chart so your child can record what they’ve done. Our advisor will check in, reflect with the student on their learning, and assess how things are going once a month. We will also schedule opportunities for students to share their learning with their classmates.

Thinking about community
We want to make sure that we stay connected to each other. It can be hard to stay in touch if we are off in different directions, so we’ll have a community meeting once a week for half an hour on Zoom to sing, hear a story, and share what’s going on. 

Making use of at-home holiday kits
Our holiday kits are designed for both older and younger students. Our theme for the year is Jewish holidays and culture from around the world. Learning about diverse Jewish cultures will be a component of each holiday. We will deliver the holiday kits in three batches: 1) Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, and Simchat Torah; 2) Chanukkah, Tu B’shevat and Purim; 3) Passover and Shavuot. Older kids will be able to do most of the activities and projects on their own. Younger kids will need more guidance.

Meeting the needs of our youngest students
Virtual learning is particularly difficult for young children. We won’t be able to sit them in front of screens for long periods of time, but we do have many ideas for how to engage them if we are not able to meet in person. We can do short virtual sessions with art projects, singing, games, and Hebrew Through Movement. Our holiday packets with materials for hands-on learning will be especially important. Once we know who our youngest students are, we will tailor our classes to their needs.

Looking forward to a great year!
Rabbi Laurie and the Children’s Education Committee

To learn more
Jewish Education at Shaarei Shamayim
Curriculum 2020-2021
Activities
Sample Monthly Plan
Embracing A Jewish Educational Vision During a Pandemic

 

Tue, December 1 2020 15 Kislev 5781