Over the past year, if you’ve walked through the hallway in the school wing at Temple Aliyah you may have noticed an abundance of pink and yellow heart and star shaped post it notes. If you had a chance to stop and read the notes you might have seen messages like, “Wow! I love your cubby. I hope you like keeping your things here while you are at school.” or “Welcome to Temple Aliyah. I hope you have a great day!” or even “I wish Temple Aliyah had a preschool when I was little. These toys look so cool!” These notes, and many more like them, were written throughout the year by Mercaz Aliyah students and were left for Gan Aliyah students and their families to enjoy.
When we began thinking about creating Gan Aliyah Preschool at Temple Aliyah one of the biggest logistical challenges we faced was how Mercaz Aliyah students in grades kindergarten to seven were going to share spaces with Gan Aliyah students who are two and three years old. We were confident that we could store our Mercaz Aliyah materials so that our toddlers would not have access to items that might pose dangers to them, the question was, how we could keep our older students from accessing the enticing materials kept in the spaces for toddlers? We began the quest for finding a solution to our shared space challenge researching catalogues of educational materials. There was no shortage of locking cabinets and shelves but somehow they didn’t seem to be the answer we were looking for. We continued our search by speaking with other synagogues who share space between programs. We heard about moving furniture, locking rooms and the importance of signage. Still, it didn’t seem like the right answer for us.
Late last spring, as Gan Aliyah equipment and materials began flowing into Temple Aliyah I noticed that everyone, from our youngest children to the professionals who are in the building day-to-day, were taking an keen interest in the latest deliveries from the UPS truck. I would peek out my office door and see people sitting on the floor zooming cars, exploring the mini kitchen and building raceways for colorful balls. It occurred to me that finding locks and creating obstacles to accessing our new preschool classrooms wasn’t what we needed. Instead, it seemed, we needed to find a way for everyone to express the excitement and joy they were feeling about Gan Aliyah Preschool’s arrival. And so began the Post It Note Project.
Each time I would see a child or an adult playing with one of the new arrivals for Gan Aliyah’s classrooms I would hand them a post it note and ask them to write a few words of welcome to the newest members of the Temple Aliyah community. Before long I started placing pads of post it notes and cups of colored markers throughout the Gan Aliyah space and people started writing notes…hundreds of notes! On Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays at the end of Mercaz Aliyah there would always be new notes to read. As the opening day of Gan Aliyah notes of welcome appeared in the cubbies. Remarkably, as the year went on the notes kept coming and they became something the Purple Room students looked forward to reading with their teachers.
Now that the Inaugural Year of Gan Aliyah is behind us I look back and realize, with great pride in our community, that we did not need locks or obstacles to keep people out of our new classrooms and preschool spaces. We had exactly what we needed, a way for people to meaningfully engage with the newest addition to the Temple Aliyah community. It makes me proud to be able to say that not one single item went missing from the preschool this year. Not one toy was broken. Not one piece of equipment was left out of place. We successfully shared our spaces without locks or barriers building bridges with nothing more than post it notes.