For Tu BiShvat this year at Gesher Jewish Day School, we ran a succesful program to help our students take a closer look at nature. We brought nature inside the school following a clever plan from the book Let the Earth Teach You Torah.
Our school is set into a large property of woodland. We gathered many samples of tree branches, twigs, leaves and bark to the kids. Each one chose an item, and set to work examining it carefully. They wrote as detailed a description as they could, getting to know the item as a new friend.
In the Middle School, the students also put their samples into a box, switched descriptions and tried to identify the new item from the mix.
One of the most rewarding pieces of the activity was seeing how the samples could spark kids' imagination and creativity. Not only could these students connect easily with their item, but they even brought the item to life with personification, naturally letting a story grow about the life of the sample in its environment.
The activity centered around the pasuk in Bereishit 28:16, where Yaakov wakens from his dream and realizes, "Surely G-d was in this place and I didn't know it!" So too with our students at Gesher, we keep their minds open to seeing how amazing the world can be in its small details, alongside the large.