Help Students Find Meaning in Nature This Tu BiShevat

Tu BiShevat pushes us to think about our natural world. We have an opportunity to celebrate trees, which are essnetial to our quality of life, and their role in our world.

The holiday offers an entryway to helping students explore the Jewish values of Bal Tashchit (“do not destroy”), bettering the environment and creating a greener, more abundant world for themselves and for others.

Here are some ways to explore this big idea of Tu BiShevat and make best use of your limited time and attention spans to create rich learning.

Useful or Wasteful?

Discuss the concept of Bal Taschit, avoiding waste, as a guideline for taking care of natural resources. 

Most of us, at some point, are wasteful. We buy more things than we need, and sometimes as let food go bad before we get a chance to eat it. Help students consider whether destruction is always wasteful. In small groups, discuss the following cases and whether is was useful or wasteful. Have groups share their ideas.

• You strongly dislike the new shirt you got as a gift. You put it away and store it in the attic.

• You have soccer cleats that are in decent shape but they no longer fit, so you put them in the recycling bin.

• You accidentally crack a dish but you decide to use the pieces to make a mosaic.

• An abandoned building is knocked down to build a shelter for homeless people.

• A section of wetlands is drained to build new shops and homes.

*This exercise comes from Make, Create, Celebrate: Jewish Holiday Through Art

Reflection 

Give students the opportunity to contemplate their own relationships with the natural world from a Jewish perspective through the powerful tool of of a reflective journal. For example, Our Place in the Universe -- for grades 6-8 -- has a chapter called "Large Tasks, Small Steps" that helps students explore the question of how we can affect global issues when they seem too overwhelming. It begins with the story of Rabbi Akiva, who noticed stone that had been cut back by water, one drop at a time, and realized that big change happens only when we take small incremental steps.  

 

 For a sample lesson plan about "Large Tasks, Small Steps," click here.

Digging into Text 

Examine environmental issues through Biblical text in The Natural Bible, an interactive iBook that explores six religious environmental values, including consumption and sustainability, stewardship, our relationship with living creatures and God’s creation, and environmental justice. 

This iBook breaks new ground in the field of Jewish environmental studies. Take it with you, highlight text, take notes, and bookmark favorite passages. Search for specific text and tap the audio icon to hear Hebrew titles. Also contains a built-in glossary and index, multimedia, and hypertext links.