Tu B’Shvat Resources
Here is a short list of Tu B’shvat activities for Jewish schools and educational frameworks. Send us your comments, suggestions and experiences with the activities.
1. Hold a Tu B’shvat seder.
Go traditional or hold a seder with a twist! Link the seder to Israel, environmentalism, or even ice cream! See some sample seders here.
2. Organize a Jewish Environmental Fair.
Invite students and their families to a Tu B’shvat fair that promotes a greener environment. Ask environmental organizations that encourage composting, recycling, gardening, etc, to exhibit. Invite a Jewish farmer or Jewish organizations like the Jewish National Fund, Neot Kedumim and Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life to make presentations. Include a Jewish education element focusing on ba’al tashchit, shmittah, or tzar baalei chaim. Be creative: include demonstrations on water-wise lawn care, organic gardening, and test drives of hybrid or electric cars. Organize craft activities that only use recycled products like pupper-making, sculpting with recycled materials, etc. Encourage carpooling/bike riding to the fair, and only use biodegradable, recycled products for food and drink.
3. Reduce your school’s carbon footprint/environmental impact.
Brainstorm with your students ten ways in which your Jewish school can reduce it’s environmental impact (i.e. turning down the heat, leaving the lights off, decreasing photocopying, encouraging carpooling, etc.). Divide the class into groups and assign one idea to each group. Each group should develop a marketing campaign to promote their idea. The campaign’s may include powerpoint presentations, computer graphics, videos, etc. Then implement the best ideas.
4. Clean up a local forest.
Contact your local parks authority and ask if your class can volunteer to pick up rubbish and clean a local park/forest. Before the clean up, learn about Tu B’shvat with your students and explain that this is the day we honor the trees and the environment.
5. Film a short documentary about Judaism and the environment.
Explain to your class that you are going to be filming a documentary about Judaism and the environment. Let them decide the focus but make sure it is a narrow enough topic to cover in a short documentary. Identify individuals in the community who are experts on the topic (parks/recycling authority professionals, academics, journalists) and who will agree to be interviewed by your students. In class, write up interview questions. Students should film the interviews and take local footage that highlights the problem.
Watch the interviews with the students and identify topics that relate to Judaism, for instance: ba’al tashchit (wasteful destruction), tzar baalei chaim (avoiding cruelty to animals), etc. (A good place to find sources is the Compendium of Sources in Halacha and the Environment published by Canfei Nesharim). Study the chosen text/s with the students and lead a discussion on how that relates to your documentary topic. Students should write up a short dvar torah on the topic. Presentations of dvrei torah should also be filmed. Students weave together the interviews and the divrei torah to create a brief documentary. Arrange a screening for the school/parents. Note: standard digital cameras can be used – there is no need for expensive video equipment. Also, use a free movie editor like Windows Movie Maker to edit the film.
6. Organize an environmentally-friendly Shabbat meal/Shabbaton the week before Tu B’shvat.
Try to make the event as environmentally-friendly as possible: Issue e-mail invitations to the event, use locally grown produce to make the meals, use biodegradable goods and arrange learing activities that explain how the Torah views the environment. Plan a kumzitz (sing-along) that includes songs about trees, responsibility, etc.
7. Play Tu B’shvat charades or mimes.
Some ideas: tree, forest, plant, grow, seven species, rain, food chain, global warming, landfill, carbon footprint, protect, greenpeace. Try playing the same game in Hebrew.
8. Hike in Hebrew.
Organize a hike for your students. While hiking, try to keep a conversation going in Hebrew, discussing either the hike itself or the holiday of Tu B’shvat. Some helpful vocabulary: eytz (tree), yom huledet (birthday), shemesh (sun), avir (air), geshem (rain), aviv (spring), mayim (water), desheh (grass), wheat (chitah), barley (se’orah), grapes (gefen, anavim), fig (te’enah), pomegranate (rimon), olive (zayit), date (tamar). You can provide vocabularly lists to the hikers.
9. Get Down and Dirty!
Invite a gardener or landscaper to work with your students to plant flowers/tree/bushes on your school’s property. Students should research your climate zone and see what will grow, draw up a plan, and plant on Tu B’Shvat! Invite parents to participate.
10. Recycled Orchard!
Highlight the importance of trees by making a colorful orchard out of recyled materials to decorate your classroom. Brainstorm with your class: what do trees provide? Answers: food, shelter for animals, wood for building, shade from the sun, etc. Now build an orchard with recycled materials to demonstrate these uses. For example: painted, flattened cereal boxes for the ground; painted toilet paper rolls for tree trunks; green construction paper scraps for the tree tops; colorful bits of tissue paper for fruits; twigs and branches to build ladders and fences. Glue the trees on the ground and the fruit on the trees. Arrange toy people picking the fruit and toy animals living in the trees.