Understanding the world: Celebrate World Religion Day!
Claire Hewson, teacher and education writer, Cambridgeshire
4 January 2019
Sunday 20 of January is World Religion Day, which was established to encourage interfaith understanding and mutual tolerance. Here we explore the Jewish festival of Tu B’Shevat.
Fruits and vegetables; a globe
The Usborne Children’s Bible by Heather Amery (Usborne)
The Perfect Guest by Paula Metcalf (Walker Books)
Pumpkin Soup by Helen Cooper (Corgi Children’s Books)
Molly Mischief: When I Grow Up by Adam Hargreaves (Pavilion Children’s Books)
A Squash and a Squeeze by Julia Donaldson (Macmillan Children’s Books)
World Religion Day was established in the United States in 1950 to encourage interfaith understanding and mutual tolerance. Followers of all religious faiths are encouraged to acknowledge the similarities between their faiths in order to promote harmony. January is also the time that Jewish people celebrate Tu B’Shevat or the ‘New Year of the Trees’. The Torah forbids Jews to eat the fruit they plant for the first four years. On the fifth year, on the day of Tu B’Shevat, they are allowed to eat the fruit and they celebrate with a fruit-eating ceremony. Help children to explore the similarities between Tu B’Shevat and other religions, to identify the moral messages they share, and to apply these ideas to their own lives.
- Playing and exploring
Children understand why and how Jewish people celebrate Tu B’Shevat.
They talk about similarities between the way Jewish people celebrate Tu B’Shevat and the way they celebrate special occasions.
They discover that ‘giving back’ is a key feature of different religions.
Find Jerusalem on a globe. Look at photographs of Jerusalem on Google Images and ask children to tell you what they notice about the buildings, the colours, and what people wear. How does Israel look similar/different to here?
Explain that Jewish people who live in Jerusalem and all over the world celebrate a festival called Tu B’Shevat this month. Watch three short YouTube lms about Tu B’Shevat (see ‘Resources’). Can children tell you who celebrates Tu B’Shevat, why they celebrate the occasion and what they do to celebrate?
Bring some different fruits and vegetables for children to taste, particularly varieties that may be grown in Jerusalem, such as grapes, gs, pomegranates and olives. Praise children who are willing to try new foods in order to encourage others. Ask children if they celebrate any occasions with special food. What occasions to they celebrate and what food do they eat? How is their celebration the same and different to Tu B’Shevat?
Apart from sharing fruit, can children tell you how else Jewish people celebrate Tu B’Shevat? Elicit that they plant new trees as a way of saying thank you for the produce that trees give them. Invite somebody from a local church, mosque or temple to talk to the children about how their religion ‘gives back’ perhaps through charity work.
- Active learning
Children learn together and from each other through shared attention.
They share ideas in order to draw out the common message between Tu B’Shevat and The Prodigal Son.
They apply the message of Tu B’Shevat and The Prodigal Son to their own personal experiences.
Tell children to pretend that you are an alien. You have landed on Earth in the summertime. You have never seen winter on Earth. Can they explain to you what winter is like here? Elicit ideas such as ‘cold’, ‘no leaves on the trees’, ‘snow’, ‘ owers don’t grow’ etc. Can they now describe spring to you? Explain that Jewish people eat the fruits and vegetables trees give them in the dark winter months to remind them of spring when everything is alive and growing. They are cheering themselves up by looking for the good.
Share the Bible story The Prodigal Son. At the end of the story the father welcomed his dif cult son back home. Can children tell you why he was happy to see his son despite all the trouble his son had caused? Elicit that the father focused only on the good in the situation: that his beloved son had returned home at last.
Have children heard the phrase ‘every cloud has a silver lining’? Do they know what it means? If possible, share a personal story with them about a time when a seemingly bad situation turned out for the best. If not, play a video clip (you can nd plenty of material if you search for ‘every cloud has a silver lining’). Are there any children that can share their personal stories with the rest of the group?
- Creating and thinking critically
Children think of their own ideas by suggesting ways to ‘give back’ to the world.
They decide which of their ideas is achievable and put ideas into action.
They make links between their experiences by comparing the patience that Jewish people exercise as part of Tu B’Shevat to their own lives.
When talking about ‘giving back’ to the world, can children think of their own ideas for giving back? Say that ideas could include doing something helpful at home or in the setting, or perhaps ways to help other people in the wider world. After giving children time to discuss their ideas in pairs, compile a list. Talk about their ideas, asking them which ones are achievable today. They might suggest supporting a charity together, or simply helping their mum with the dusting at home. Highlight to children that all their ideas are valuable by eliciting how their actions will make a difference to the lives of other individuals.
Help children to make links and notice patterns in their experiences by comparing Tu B’Shevat to their own celebrations and festivals. Can children remember that Jewish people have to wait five years to enjoy the fruits and vegetables they plant at Tu B’Shevat? Help them to understand how long ve years is by comparing the time scale to their own lifetime. Can they think of a time when they had to wait a long time for something, perhaps focussing on the build-up to Christmas or other
When celebrating Tu B’Shevat, check that children don’t have any known allergies to the fruit andvegetables on offer. In the book corner set out books that share the moral messages children have explored when learning about Tu B’Shevat: looking for the good in a situation (e.g. The Perfect Guest by Paula Metcalf and Pumpkin Soup by Helen Cooper) and the value of exercising patience (e.g. I’ll Wait, Mr Panda by Steve Antony). There are other messages inherent in the festival, such as the importance of following instructions and needing the bad times to appreciate the good. Bible stories such as Adam and Eve and Noah’s Ark reflect these messages as do picture books like A Squash and a Squeeze and Molly Mischief: When I Grow Up by Adam Hargreaves.
EYFS Early Learning Goals
The activities will help develop children’s understanding of the world (UTW): ‘To know about similarities and differences between themselves and others, and among families, communities and traditions.’ They will also help them develop their Communication and Language skills: ‘Children listen attentively in a range of situations. They listen to stories, accurately anticipating key events and respond to what they hear with relevant comments, questions or actions. They give their attention to what others say and respond appropriately, while engaged in another activity.’ ‘Children follow instructions involving several ideas or actions. They answer 'how' and 'why' questions about their experiences and in response to stories or events.’
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