Apr 22, 2020
Susan Tessel

Creating Satisfying Virtual Experiences For Yom Ha’Atzmaut and Beyond

Child playing with a tablet

I’ve been thinking a lot about strengthening and deepening relationships in this age of physical distancing. What are the magic ingredients educators and parents can use during this time to create sticky experiences that will make an impact on our students and children? How can we whet their appetites like the aroma of chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven? Educators, parents, grandparents - or whoever is playing a role in a child’s education during this time - can give tastes out gingerly, in small, consumable doses. In this case, less is more. We must build anticipation to build a sense of excitement. The heightened sense of longing will help them relish and savor these long-awaited experiences.

What can this learning strategy look like? With Yom Ha’Atzmaut next week, I encourage you to try this technique out through the form of a Yom Ha’Atzmaut countdown. We at The Jewish Education Project created the “Ten Days of Awe-Some Israel” resource to help educators build excitement for Israel’s Independence Day. It is a great model of how to build excitement and introduce new information.

Each day of your Yom Ha’Atzmaut countdown send something different: an Israeli playlist, a video clip showing a glimpse of life in Israel, or a story about the many faces of Judaism. Learn about the history of Israel’s flag, or have students participate in a scavenger hunt for Israeli products in their cupboards and pantries. Mix it up and whet their appetites for more.

By doling out a taste intermittently, we create a new kind of ritual which allows us to build excitement in our learners. The importance of your relationship with each student will become more evident and more pronounced as the countdown progresses.

I want to emphasize that this pedagogy can be used for a whole range of holidays, milestones and celebrations. In fact, the educational philosophy of building anticipation is inherent in our tradition through rituals such as Sefirat HaOmer. Educators and parents can use this strategy for events like a birthday party or the end of the school year.

In the past gathering together physically helped educators generate a sense of excitement and wonder for holidays like Yom Ha’Atzmaut. We could play Israeli music as families entered the room to set the mood and serve blue and white cupcakes, falafel, and other Israeli treats. In these times of physical distancing, we are no longer able to do that. But, when we use educational strategies to build excitement and longing, we help our students foster fresh and profound connections with each other and us. 

Susan Tessel is a Senior Educational Consultant, Jewish Education and Engagement, for The Jewish Education Project. 

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These are unusual times and call for innovative and creative ways to celebrate Israel's Independence Day.

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