Jewish Educators Get Their Hands Dirty at Nevatim-Sprouts Conference


By Neely Snyder and Morris Panitz
Pearlstone Center

Imagine the following experience:  A group of students congregate around the school garden for a   lesson on righteous giving or tzedakah. The students have been tending to this garden for several months, and the moment has arrived to finally harvest the fruit of their labor. The students collectively take a moment to recognize all the effort that has gone into this garden, these vegetables, this process.  The teacher suggests that the students donate some of their produce to those who are less fortunate, those who perhaps don’t have access to fresh food.

“But we grew these vegetables– we deserve them,” one student suggests. “How much should we give?  Who should we give to? I’m not sure I know anyone who needs food?” another student replies.

The conversation has begun. Ownership and our responsibility to give have come into conflict.  Discovering a Jewish response is the journey.

What tools are we providing educators in their mission to connect students to the Jewish conversation?

How do we bring to life, in an experiential and hands-on manner, the lifelong questions that fuel our commitment to community?

The Pearlstone Center is holding its fourth annual Nevatim-Sprouts Conference, Sunday, July 13 through Wednesday July 16. This professional development conference brings together early childhood, day school, and religious school educators from around the country for training in Jewish garden and environmental education. Participants learn the basics of educational garden design, share lesson plans and Jewish environmental curricula, tour the state’s premier outdoor classrooms, harvest and prepare farm to table meals, and walk away with the tools, resources and professional network needed to develop Jewish environmental programming at their schools.

This year, in response to past participant feedback, an additional day was added to the conference to provide more opportunities for interactive lesson-plan modeling and group brainstorm. Hands-on sessions explore how to integrate an educational garden into your institution and bring the outside into the classroom to teach about the Jewish calendar, social justice, stewardship and responsibility, among other Jewish values.

Pearlstone’s skilled staff utilize the center’s four-acre organic farm, small animal pasture and trails throughout the conference. Continuing education credits (CEUs) from the Maryland Department of Education are available to participants.

Conference partners this year include the Louise D. and Morton J. Macks Center for Jewish Education,  RAVSAK, Pardes Institute, The Jewish Montessori Society, United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism, Schechter Day School Network, Early Childhood Educators of Reform Judaism and the PARDeS Day Schools of Reform Judaism.

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