Tu B’Shvat may be an under recognized holiday in some circles, but it’s very significant in preschool. Trees serve a great many vital functions in society, and possibly even more in early childhood. They offer a structure to climb, a challenge to conquer. A habitat for animals, its own little world. Not to mention, a cyclical source of fruit. Even more, they offer life lessons as they grow alongside our students.
Here at the OFJCC Leslie Family Preschool, we are so grateful to have access to so many beautiful, fruiting trees, and our students take full advantage of the learning opportunities offered by the trees. There is always a student climbing a tree, picking a piece of fruit for a snack, or searching for small grubs hiding in the dirt. The students quite literally grow alongside the trees, each child growing taller and stronger as the trees do and learning to interact with and care for the trees in more complex ways. Each generation of students witnesses new trees grow, mature trees blossom or fruit and older trees wither, die and get replaced.
So, when Tu B’Shvat comes around, we thank the trees and we learn about them, we plant them and we hope for them. Every year in January, we watch something as small as a seed held in the hand of a child transform that child into a member of society through a simple lesson. A student may plant a tree today, and watch its seed sprout, its roots enmesh themselves into the ground, its spindly trunk emerge and reach toward the sun. However, that tree will need years of sun, water and care to grow trees and fruit sufficiently to feed that student. Each student begins to understand the selfless nature of trees—that those who plant them will not be around to see their fruit, and that the fruit we receive from our trees today is only due to the generous forethought of those that came before us.
—Amanda Klein, OFJCC Leslie Family Preschool educator