At PSA, we are very intentional about the way we participate in holiday traditions at school. There are many reasons we believe in making holidays part of the classroom: to validate the identities of the children in the room, to expose children to celebrations, traditions, and religions different from their own, to build a sense of community, and to provide a fun break from routine! Because we believe in an emergent curriculum, these holiday traditions are often provided by the experts – the families in each classroom! Often, families are invited to share their traditions or a holiday with the classroom.
Recently, a number of classrooms explored Hanukkah in their rooms. At PSA, we often talk about “windows and mirrors,” windows being learning opportunities to glimpse into other people’s worlds and mirrors being opportunities to see our own world reflected in the classroom. When we invite children and families to share their Hanukkah traditions with their friends, it is both a mirror (for the children who are sharing their personal family culture) and a window (for those who are learning from their friends). This is inclusive approach is a foundational part of our anti-bias curriculum.
In the Sunshine Room, the children sang songs, read stories, played dreidel, made a menorah, and even had a Hanukkah dance party.
In the Oak Room, parents were invited to join the class (outdoors) to share their holiday traditions during this busy time of the year. Each family offered to share some part of their special traditions around this time of year, including one family who celebrates Hanukkah. A parent in the classroom came in to teach the class all about the story of Hanukkah. After reading a book that explained more about lighting the menorah, they got to see how the candles were lit and then learn how to play dreidel using dried chickpeas.
In the Silver Room, this year was especially meaningful for one teacher (who celebrates Hanukkah) because there are several children in the Silver Room who also celebrate Hanukkah! With these youngest children, the teachers are focus on the concrete, recognizable parts of Hanukkah rather than the story because interaction with materials is an important part of how the children at the toddler age.
One of the students who has been celebrating Hanukkah at home, can show what he knows about this tradition. When he is handed a candle, he knows that it ought to go on the menorah. At circle time, he notices a dreidel and becomes excited. His grandma (or safta), another teacher at PSA, joined the Silvers for circle time and brought her chanukkia/menorah, sevivon (dreidels), and chocolate coins (gelt). The children felt the reverence of the flame on the menorah, with wide eyes and quiet voices. Everyone danced and sang to sevivon songs!
Reflections by the Oak, Sunshine, and Silver Room Co-Teachers