The Jay and Rose Phillips Early Childhood Center at the Boulder JCC has been a Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program Partner School for the past three years. As a practicum site, the school hosts graduate students and mentor teachers. One of the resources the school incorporates into their curriculum is the Milk and Honey Farm, located adjacent to the Boulder JCC building.
Milk and Honey Farm at the J is a 2+ acre educational sustainable farm that brings the greater community together via experiential programs and activities designed to ignite wonder and discovery, grounded in vast Jewish heritage, tradition, and values. It provides a place for individuals to connect on the simplest level with soil, plants, animals, and people, for the health and well-being of themselves and the larger community.
On this particular day in February, a class of 2-3 year-old children was invited to visit the geodesic dome greenhouse to explore and participate in planting. They explored the plants that were already growing, as well as the fish in the aquaponic pool.
Aquaponics (/ˈækwəˈpɒnᵻks/) refers to any system that combines conventional aquaculture (raising aquatic animals such as snails, fish, crayfish or prawns in tanks) with hydroponics (cultivating plants in water) in a symbiotic environment.
The class was introduced to the baby parsley plants, started from seed by the resident farmer. They observed the leaves and root structures of the tiny plants. They discussed the process of starting seeds in trays, like the one pictured, and then transferring them to soil so the roots can spread out and the plants can grow to maturity. As the conversation unfolded, teachers documented the experience, so it could be revisited and reflected upon at a later time.
The parsley itself is culturally significant. Parsley is one of several symbolic foods that is traditionally offered on the Passover Seder plate. Passover takes place near April each year, so these parsley plants were ready for harvest in time for the holiday.
The Boulder JCC is part of the JCC Network of North America. The JCC is an inclusive organization, open to members, teachers, and students of all backgrounds and cultures.A strong part of the ECC’s philosophical approach to early childhood education is the Sheva Framework. Described in detail below, the Sheva framework represents an expression of the Jewish tradition that is reflective of the inquiry and inclusiveness held by all in this community.
The art of inquiry within Judaism is a time-honored tradition. Teachers and students are on a continuous cycle of asking questions, researching answers, and co-constructing knowledge together.
The following seven values of the Sheva Framework help us to focus our intentions and serve as Jewish ‘lenses’ through which we see our curriculum and the life of our school community.
Reflection, Return & Renewal
In order to move forward in a meaningful way, we must reflect upon the past. Our travels are more important than the destination.
TZELEM ELOKIM/DIVINE IMAGE
Dignity & Potential of Each Person
The image of the child as capable and competent is a core Reggio philosophy value. We view children, families and colleagues with dignity. This is a lens of accountability, empathy and self-worth.
Belonging & Commitment – Community
A bound and trusted relationship allows us to unite with others in pursuit of a shared vision. It enables us to grow, take risks, and share with honesty.
The spirit of inquiry within human nature is the drive that aides in reflection and growth. To question, to debate, to interpret, and to communicate are all essential components of the Jewish tradition.
When we as adults take the time to slow down, we become more aware of the miracles that exist in every moment, allowing gratitude to flow freely through us. Young children are more apt to wonder, naturally embracing life with exuberance.
TIKKUN OLAM/REPAIR OF THE WORLD
Repairing the world is done with a spirit of generosity and a partnership with families and children to continuously make a difference in our community. There is a sense of responsibility to perform social “acts of kindness” every day.
We envision holiness in terms of sacred time, spaces and intentions. We find holiness at distinct times in the Jewish calendar, such as Shabbat and holidays. We also unearth holiness in our daily experiences as we observe the interactions of children, listen to their voices, and discover life together.
By creating opportunities for children to experience the life cycle from planting to eating, the children can develop ownership and care for their food in a rich and complex way. The values expressed in the Sheva framework offer a powerful lens through which to think about the significance of experiences such as this.
As the spring weather takes hold and a new outdoor growth cycle begins in all the spaces of Milk and Honey Farm, the school will continue to explore ways the children can explore and research the farm-to-table cycle.
- How do the cultures reflected in your school impact the experiences offered to children?
- What resources exist in or around your school community that can offer possibilities?
- What kinds of opportunities can you offer children to build close relationships with the food they eat?