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At Temple Beth Tikvah’s Early Childhood Learning Center (ECLC), Passover always presents new exciting learning opportunities.  What made this year stand out from all the others was the creation of a “Living Haggadah.”  The children (ages 2 to 5) acted out a graphic version of the Passover story through drama, costumes and music while staff took a photo history for each child as he or she progressed through the Exodus story.  The idea of slavery and oppression are foreign to most U.S. children, so it was a pile of rocks from a nearby construction site (Temple Beth Tikvah’s Asa Center for Lifelong Jewish Learning) that was used as a teaching tool for Passover.  The children were asked to move the rocks and rubble into a nearby dumpster.  They got to feel what it was like to be a slave, forced to build the pyramids (at least for a short time).

The ECLC teachers worked hard on staging realistic scenes from the Passover story — the parting of the sea, Pharaoh with frogs on his bed and the children’s favorite – dressing like the plagues.  Using all the scenes, the teachers explained the story and its symbolism.  The last photo of the story featured each class of children yelling, “Once we were slaves, but now we are free!”

Nature Explore

Temple Beth Sholom Preschool has earned the national designation of a certified Nature Explore Classroom from the Arbor Day Foundation and Dimensions Educational Research Foundation.  This is the first certified Nature Explore Classroom in Santa Ana.  These classrooms, which are being developed across the country, offer interactive elements, including musical instruments made of natural materials, climbing structures, wooden blocks, small waterways, garden areas and natural materials for building and creating art — that give children important and inspiring nature experiences.  While connecting children with nature, such unstructured play and activities are shown to enhance concentration, develop creativity and problem-solving, relieve stress and improve skills in many areas.

In the outdoor classroom children: explore green spaces, which develops a level of independence and stimulates a variety of different learning experiences; build with natural materials such as tree blocks, cedar tree stumps and hollow wooden blocks; share ideas, negotiate, make decisions, choose tasks and problem-solve together; incorporate math skills, like counting, predicting and estimating, such as, determining how many sticks it takes to create a fort; actively engage in every part of the planting process, including: seeding, watering, weeding, tending and finally harvesting; develop a relationship and appreciation for the world around them.

Chapman Commencement

Chapman University featured comedy legend Jerry Lewis among its commencement speakers this year, as the university’s 1000-plus undergraduates and 600-plus graduate and law school students donned caps and gowns for graduation ceremonies May 20 and 21 on the campus in Orange.  An honorary degree was presented to Leon Leyson, the youngest member of “Schindler’s List.”

Birthright Experience

Birthright Israel Month included festivities across North America at 150 synagogues celebrating Birthright Israel Shabbat throughout May.  Birthright Israel Shabbat is meant as a way for synagogues and communities to reconnect with local Birthright Israel trip alumni and enjoy special Shabbat meals and programming, including joint presentations by alumni and Israeli soldiers recalling their Taglit-Birthright Israel experience.  These Shabbat activities at synagogues representing the entire spectrum of religious denominations were among some 200 community events marking Birthright Israel Month during May.  The month celebrated Taglit-Birthright Israel’s accomplishment of sending nearly 300,000 Jewish young adults on the 10-day trip and raised awareness for its new goal of sending 51,000 participants annually — or one in every two young Jewish adults — beginning in 2013.

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