אֵלוּ דְבָרִים שֶׁאֵין לָהֶם שִׁעוּר. הַפֵּאָה, וְהַבִּכּוּרִים, וְהָרֵאָיוֹן, וּגְמִילוּת חֲסָדִים, וְתַלְמוּד תּוֹרָה
“These are the things that have no measure: Peah [corner of the field which, while harvesting, must be left for the poor], Bikurim [first-fruits that must be brought to the Temple], the Reiyah [brought to the Temple on pilgrimage festivals], acts of Chesed kindness, and the study of the Torah.”
—Mishnah Peah 1
In the mishna above, we see that there is a connection between the fruits of the land and acts of kindness. In modern society, it is hard to feel the connection to the fruits of the land, as most of us buy food products from supermarkets, far from their original source. For that reason, the seventh grade scientists have participated in a garden project to learn about the importance of the cycle of nature and plants and the role of these plants in our own food supply chain. This was an immersive experience for our students to gain a literal “hands-on” experience and much greater appreciation for where our food comes from.
Through this project, the seventh graders have learned that plants are crucial within food chains in nearly all ecosystems and that plants transform energy from the sun through photosynthesis. They also learned the plant cell structures and functions, the structure of a plant from the roots to the leaves, and how plants grow from a seed into a fruit. In addition, we spent time learning about how compost helps the environment and the role of plants in the water, carbon, and nitrogen cycles.
During the year-long garden project, students built terrariums, grew potted herbs in the winter, and planted a variety of indoor plants, such as tomatoes, carrots, kale, lettuce, and pepper. The students then transferred their indoor plants into the garden and will care for them until June, when we hope to harvest the fruits of their labor as summer officially kicks off.
In Israel, the month of Sivan (May) is the time of the wheat harvest. In ancient times, this is reflected in the ritual service of the festival of Shavuot by the Two Loaves offering, made from the newly harvested wheat, and the Bikkurim offering. The summer months from Tamuz to Elul (June to August) are spent harvesting and gathering the summer crops and fruits. The cycle ends in the month of Tishrei (September) and is reflected in the festivals of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot, when the cycle begins again.
Avraham Sosa is a middle school science teacher.
The School Sparks blog appears periodically by various writers among the JCDS educational team. Learn more about JCDS, Boston’s Jewish Community Day School.
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