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PreSchool Emergent Curriculum in Action: The Blessing of a Broken Tzedakah Box

Even PreSchoolers can engage in thinking about tzedakah - it’s never too early! Here’s a great example from Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School in Maryland. This article was originally posted at Beth Tfiloh

PreSchool Emergent Curriculum in Action: The Blessing of a Broken Tzedakah Box

Over the past couple of months, you’ve read about BT PreSchool’s exciting Emergent Curriculum, which allows the students to take the lead in their own education. Here’s a moving example of how even an unexpected mishap can lead to a lifelong lesson about the importance of community and generosity.

“Tzedakah and acts of kindness are the equivalent of all the mitzvot of the Torah” – Jerusalem Talmud, Pe’ah 1:1.

Every day, a tzedakah box sat on the desk in Morah Brenda’s and Morah Emma’s Three Year Old classroom, awaiting the deposits of change from the children.

Then one day…their tzedakah box broke!

This unexpected event sparked one the classroom families— the Moss family— to purchase a new tzedakah box in honor of their daughter Aidee’s 3rd birthday. The Mosses shipped the new box directly to the children at the school, where it would arrive in the mailbox right outside the classroom. The children eagerly check this mailbox daily, since many families and friends send mail to the children there.

Then one day…their new tzedakah box arrived!

The children were elated when they checked the mailbox and found this special package waiting for them. It was time to begin filling their new tzedakah box with shiny coins! As the days went by, the children continued to bring in their tzedakah and fill the box.

Then one day…the box was filled!

As Morah Brenda spilled out the money to show the children all that they had collected, a conversation was sparked! In observing the children’s interest and excitement, Morah Brenda realized this was a tremendous learning opportunity for the budding philanthropists and opened up the floor for discussion.

The results of their conversation were astounding! Each child’s ideas reflected the culture of generosity, community and altruism that each BT teacher works so hard to cultivate in his or her classroom.

Here are some of the children’s ideas:

“We should give it to some family to buy something for Shabbos.”
“We could buy vegetables so they could make the soup.”
“Buy challah.”
“Buy d’vash (honey) for the challah.”
“We could buy a Shabbos book for someone.”

Morah Brenda and Morah Emma were astonished by the depth of the children’s responses and began researching to find an organization that could fulfill the children’s wishes, one that would use the funds to help provide a Shabbat dinner to a family in need. Their tzedakah was given to Ahavas Yisrael Charity Fund.

The two morahs wanted to help the children truly experience the feeling of “giving tzedakah.” So one Friday, Morah Brenda invited the children over to a table she had set up in the classroom, set with a Kiddush cup…but no grape juice; a challah plate and cover…but no challah; and a large pot…with no soup, setting the stage for the dramatic reenactment of “Helping a Family Have a Shabbat Dinner,” by Morah Brenda and Morah Emma’s Three Year old class.

The teachers picked an imma (mother) and abba (father) and Morah Brenda asked them, “Are you ready for Shabbat?”

“I have no vegetables to make my soup,” the class imma replied.

Morah Brenda turned to the boy. “Abba, can you make Kiddush?”

“I don’t have grape juice for Kiddush or challah,” he replied.

And so Morah Brenda gave the kids their tzedakah money and sent them to a grocery store (set up in the classroom) to purchase groceries for their Shabbat family. Each student brought over items to make this family’s Shabbat a special experience, including food and books.

Morah Brenda addressed the imma and abba once again. “Can you make Shabbat now?” Yes, now they could make a real Shabbat, thanks to the generosity of their classmates.

Often, the Shabbat table is set as a reminder of this special, child-initiated experience and to provoke conversation and reflection with the children. And to think…all this would not have happened without a broken tzedakah box and two very responsive and respectful teachers who recognized the blessing of a broken tzedaka box.

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