Israel the Theme as Seniors, Elementary Grades Build Community
For Maimonides School’s Class of 2009, last month’s “community day” found fulfillment right at home.
Each month, the 59 seniors fan out to various community agencies – soup kitchens, nursing homes, child welfare offices – for chesed in action. But this time, “we wanted to do something within the community and create a relationship with the younger students,” said Marissa Schwartz. “It gave us a good opportunity to bond.”
So the class planned and executed a one-hour program with the 200 students in the Elementary School, exploring Israel through hands-on activities, including a Tu B'Shvat seder. “The goal of this time is for the seniors to spend their ‘community day’ building relationships with younger children, and simultaneously delivering a take-home message about Israel, and idea of what certain elements of Israeli culture are like,” said Marissa.
Marissa said she and her co-chair, Aliza Katz, met with Tomer Ben Shoham, Grade 12 dean, and Rabbi David Saltzman, Elementary School principal. “The four of us came up with the activities. We developed the ideas with help from the administration.”
The entire population in kindergarten through fifth grade was divided into “families,” with each spending three 15-minute blocks at the three activities. Fifth graders helped the seniors at each station, “explaining things to their groups, helping pass out supplies, and encouraging the kids to get involved, so that the fifth graders could feel involved and the younger kids get extra guidance,” Marissa explained.
The activities were dynamic. The gym resounded with Hebrew commands from the senior “drill sergeants,” as they organized the younger students and directed them along obstacle courses, relay races and exercises in a simulated Israeli Defense Force “basic training” experience.
Down the hall, in the art room, the atmosphere was quite different, as teams put together large maps of Israel, using a variety of media to illustrate topographical features. And on the third floor, an assortment of Israeli fruits were the attraction as youngsters learned about the holiday of Tu B’Shevat, the appropriate blessings, and the importance of trees in Israel.
“I saw the seniors really stepping up to the task, and the kids seemed to really enjoy it,” Marissa said after the activities. Aliza praised her classmates’ efforts and enthusiasm. “I hope in the future we can do more like this -- go into the Brener Building and help with integration between elementary and high schools, especially on the subject of Israel.”
Marissa, recalling her own experience in Elementary School, said it is important for older students to serve as role models on Maimonides’ K-12 campus. “A positive role model is a vision of the future for them,” she pointed out.
“We are very proud of how our seniors were able to give back to our Elementary School,” said Rabbi Yair Altshuler, Maimonides principal. “Seniors built relationships with younger children, and did some very important teaching about life in Israel. I find this to be one of the special things about Maimonides -- the way relationships are encouraged across buildings and grade levels, both in, and out of school.”