“Megillah, Megillah, Who’s Coming Out of the Megillah?” These are the words of one of the songs that the Pre-K is preparing to sing in honor of Purim at the Senior Luncheon on March 1 at Young Israel Shomrai Emunah. The children sang for the seniors before Chanukah as well. Each year, the children sing and eat lunch with the seniors. Bringing joy and having an intergenerational connection is a core value at Shomrai Nursery.
With this in mind, the teachers and children have engaged in conversations during their meeting time (a time in which the class discusses their upcoming events and reflects on past experiences), excitedly planning for their important visit.
During the meeting, the children and teachers began their exploration of Purim (as they would for any topic) by creating a web to collect and record what the children already know, as well as their ideas and questions. This experience offers both teachers and children an opportunity to consolidate knowledge as well as to allow the educators to get a clear sense of the children’s theories, baseline knowledge, interests, and areas to explore more deeply. Quickly, the Purim discussion took off with many of the children adding their input to the web.
“We give mishloach manot,” said Suri.
“We eat hamantashen,” said Temima.
“I’m going to dress up for Purim!” Shmuel Reuven excitedly announced.
“We read the megillah on Purim,” said Yaakov and Racheli. They explained that “we read the story of Purim in the megillah.”
Shulamis reminded us about the “groggers,” and Racheli explained that “they make a loud noise when they say Haman’s name in the megillah.”
Some of the questions that the children asked were:
Rahm and Lilly: “Why do we eat hamantashen?”
Shayna: “Why do we dress up on Purim and why do we give shalach manos?”
Yaakov: “Why is Purim in the middle of the month?”
As the children continue to learn more about the story and mitzvot of Purim, additional information and new questions will be added to the web.
While the children in the Pre-K have been preparing for their performance, the children in the threes class, Kitat Shalom, have been creating whimsical paper dolls dressed in costumes in preparation for their own Purim celebration for parents and special friends. The children have been working with “Mat Man” from Handwriting Without Tears and creating monthly self-portraits, and through these experiences they have the ability to apply their knowledge of symmetry, as well as awareness of facial and body parts. The children enjoyed drawing faces on their dolls and adorning them with clothing made of beautiful fabrics and feathers. At the end of the experience, there were many dolls, and many children who were very proud of their skill and accomplishment.
The three-year-olds class is not the only one working to decorate their classroom for Purim. Starting on Rosh Chodesh (the beginning of the month of) Adar, the children and teachers will transform the school and classrooms with gorgeous fabrics and masks, constructing royal palaces and the city of Shushan within Shomrai Nursery. Kitat Rimon (Pre-K), as part of their in-depth construction investigation, will form committees to work on the royal palace. They will research palaces and learn about walled cities before creating a blueprint and a list of supplies they will need. Kitat Tamar (Pre-K), as part of their book-making investigation, plan to create and write their own Megillat Esther. They too will form committees to create the paper for the scroll, as well as narrate and illustrate the megillah.
The twos classes, Kitat Gefen and Kitat Simcha, will have their dramatic play centers transformed into Shushan, so that their learning of Purim can continue into their play.
Shomrai Nursery works with children and families to honor what we know and believe about children, teaching, and learning. The school’s educational philosophy and pedagogical approach is based on a constructivist theory of learning along with inspiration from the Reggio Emilia philosophy of early childhood education. We offer a guided play and inquiry-based curriculum. With this framework, teachers focus on the learner as the “guide by the side.” This understanding of the teaching and learning paradigm focuses on what children will internalize if they are offered meaningful experiences and materials through which they will actively construct theories, test ideas, and consolidate understanding. When children learn in this way, knowledge that is built lasts.
In addition, the school adheres to the philosophy of building a strong social-emotional foundation for every child. This facet of the curriculum is supported by following the principles of the Center for Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning (SEFEL), a University of Vanderbilt program. SEFEL is a framework that promotes the social and emotional development and school readiness for young children. The SEFELmodel is effective in helping children appropriately express and understand their emotions, promoting pro-social behaviors and self-regulation necessary for success in school. Teachers use scripted social stories and the social “Tool Kit” to help children understand social situations, interactions, expectations, social cues, and rules.
Ruthie Cohen is the Director of Shomrai Nursery.