Each year, the four and five year old children in Congregation Kol Ami’s ECP, spend much of their time exploring nature in a year-round outdoor education program called Teva which translates to nature in hebrew. They learn to appreciate everything that Mother Nature has blessed us with by tending to three garden beds, tapping maple trees, and exploring the flora and fauna that surround our expansive campus.
Towards the end of the school year, the children create a permanent, nature-themed art project which becomes a gift they “give” to their garden as a “thank you” for all they have experienced in this program the past three years.
How was I going to accomplish this project and continue this beautiful tradition without the opportunity to work hands-on with the children in school? As the weeks passed and our new virtual routine became reality, I moved forward with the garden curriculum and continued to plant, documenting all of the garden’s glory in videos for my curious students . Of course, I missed teaching in the garden, but I planted more than thirty different types of seedlings while imagining them alongside me and planting with me. During those many therapeutic hours of planting, it came to me! We needed to replace our ten-year-old rotten tree stump seating with new ones. Instead of tree stumps, I thought something more personalized would be just the right way to celebrate the moment. I could virtually collect and then engrave each child’s name – maybe even their hand-written name, into each bench. Perfect!
Each child’s name is now permanent in this garden, waiting for them to come back and visit when things go back to normal. These names are an indelible reminder of these four and five year old children who not only helped me complete this garden project virtually, but helped me get through a dismal time in history.
I dedicate these four benches to the forty-one children who shared their love of nature with me and continued to inspire me to create something beautiful to add into our world.