When we have our snack time with the children at Olam Jewish Montessori, we ask them “what is the bracha, or blessing, that we say on this food?” We ask the children where does this food grow? On a tree (Ha’etz)? In the ground (Ha’adama)?
In the Montessori method children use their hands to learn through experiential activities. At Olam we teach the children about the foods that we eat through gardening and by allowing them to plant seeds and till the land with their own hands.
Judaism also encourages experiential learning through practicing the mitzvot. We don’t just welcome in Shabbat with a prayer, we actually perform the mitzvah of lighting Shabbat candles with our hands. This act truly imprints the meaning of Shabbat on our hearts because it is something that we actually do.
Continuing in our tradition of gardening at Olam, and aligning with our Jewish values, this year we are planning to expand our efforts even further by planting a Bracha Garden or a Garden of Blessings in raised beds in our preschool backyard. With the help of parents and community volunteers we will begin planting our Bracha Garden on the holiday of Tu B’shvat.
Our hope is that snack time at Olam will turn into the last step in the cycle of learning as the children will say the prayer on the fruit or vegetables that they have grown and tended themselves in their very own Bracha Garden.
Olam Jewish Montessori of Beth Jacob is a Private Licensed Preschool for children ages 2 to 6 and is open to the greater Orange County Jewish Community. It is located on the Campus of Beth Jacob Congregation of Irvine.
For more information call (949) 786-5230 or visit www.olamjewishmontessori.com. _
Symone Sass, MSW is the Director of Olam Jewish Montessori.