Author: Debi Himelfarb

Sample Activity from our New Second Grade

Sample Activity from our New Second Grade

This fall (September 2019) ShalomLearning will offer three new levels of our values-based curriculum (K-2).  Similar to grades 3-7, our lessons tie in Biblical stories, prayers, and other Jewish text to a value. In addition, for these grades, we focus on art and literature.

Here’s a sample activity from our Ba’al Tashchit unit for second grade. Keep in mind, this is just one piece of a larger lesson plan.

Sample Activity


בַּל תַּשְׁחִית

Ba’al Tashchit-Don’t Waste

ShalomLearning: Grade 2


From ט”ו בִּשְׁבָט  Tu B’Shevat To בַּל תַּשְׁחִית Ba’al Tashchit – Don’t Waste

Values in Art: Hanoch Piven and Recycled Art
40 minutes total (can be broken into two twenty-minute sessions)
Scrap paper for the students to brainstorm their portraits
Construction paper
Clean recycled / found objects (lids, game pieces, figures, old cards, etc.)
Magazines (to cut up)

Last week we learned about ט”ו בִּשְׁבָט Tu B’Shevat, the holiday where we celebrate trees. So, it makes perfect sense that this week we’re going to take that love of nature just one step further and explore a key Jewish value: בַּל תַּשְׁחִית Ba’al Tashchit Don’t Waste. בַּל תַּשְׁחִית Ba’al Tashchit Don’t Waste is the idea that we are responsible for how we interact with the world around us and our impact on the environment.

What are some of the ways that you know that we can have an impact on the world? Brainstorm a list, including creating trash, recycling, driving a car, using disposable items instead of reusable. Be sure the students identify that you can recycle items and reuse them.

We have identified that there are many ways we impact the environment, in good ways and not-so-good ways. We’re going to focus on some of the ways we can improve our impact.

Together, let’s make a list of ideas of ways that follow the ideals of בַּל תַּשְׁחִית  Ba’al Tashchit Don’t Waste. I’ve given one idea for each category, to get you started, but let’s see what else we can do, both here and at home.
Use reusable plates / cups
Turn plastic jugs or cans into planters
Make sure all paper and cardboard get into a recycling bin!


If possible, come up with specific ideas for things that the students can implement – things like making sure all the paper gets cleaned up from your classroom and put into the recycling bin. If your synagogue (or other location) doesn’t have ample recycling bins, perhaps you can make a new one! If you have access to outdoor or window space, you could plan a future project to create planters.

One creative way to reuse a variety of objects is to create new art from it! Hanoch Piven, a famous Israeli artist, does just that. He creates portraits of famous people from across the globe. Let’s look at a few of the portraits he has made from the website Piven World

Show students a variety of portraits of figures they will recognize from the website. As you view them, point out a few of the objects used to add meaning to the portrait. For example, for Obama he uses Statue of Liberty models for the eyes.

Not all of Hanoch Piven’s art features particular people, sometimes he just creates. 

Today, you’re going to create your own Piven-style art! To get started, the first thing is to identify who you’d like to portray and come up with 4-5 attributes of the person, so you can include them in the portrait.  For example, if you picked Moses, you might note that he spoke to a burning bush, he had a speech impediment, he held the 10 commandments tablets, he split the red sea, and he lived in the desert!

When you have your list, think about ways you could represent some of these ideas on your picture. For example, you could use fire or a bush to represent the burning bush. You could color his robe a speckled tan color to look like desert.

Encourage the kids to help each other with their brainstorming. You can bring back the idea of “זוּג – zug – pair” from week 13 and encourage them to work in partners.

Students will work at a variety of paces, so it is recommended that you pause once you feel like everyone has picked a person and started brainstorming attributes. You will take  more work time later on to create the actual portraits – and suggestions for what to do with those students who create quickly.

Provide a second block of time for students to work on their portraits. Encourage students to include any objects they can find – and to draw or cut out pictures of items that wouldn’t work to include directly (like a banana!).

Some ideas for students who complete their work more quickly than the rest:

  • Create explanation cards for each portrait, interviewing other students to learn about the symbolism they included. 
  • Work together to create another image for an imagined character.


Can You Escape?

Ready for an online escape room adventure? Your family can work together (or as individuals) to complete challenges and win prizes.  

Here’s how it works:

  1. Register at
  2. Escape a different room each week by uncovering clues and completing activities
  3. Guess the location of the artifact

We will reward your $20 registration with a $20 Amazon Gift Card when you escape all the rooms! In addition, you can win the $100 grand prize if you’re the first to locate the missing artifact.

The adventure begins January, 21, 2019.

Spaces are limited so sign up now:

Watch this video to see what it looks like:

ShalomLearning Escape Room Intro from ShalomLearning.

Hakarat Hatov

Our students in grades 3-7 are starting their fifth unit, Hakarat Hatov which is translated as gratitude; recognition of the good; appreciation.

Having an attitude of gratitude may not be a natural state for all of us. Developing a sense of appreciation is a learned behavior – a habit of noticing everything from the gift of life to physical things. We can begin to develop this practice through direct instruction, storytelling, modeled behavior, and experiences that reinforce the habit of Hakarat Hatov.

Judaism refers to the Biblical creation story as a confirmation that the entire world really belongs to God. We are but caretakers of all we possess, including our bodies and souls. That understanding should free us from jealousy and avarice and should empower us to share what we have with those in need and encourage us to use our resources to continue the creation.

Conversation Starters:

How do blessings show gratitude? Make up your own blessing for something in your family.

Gratitude is a good stress reliever. Next time you or your child feel stressed, recall three things you are thankful for.

ShalomLearning in My House

ShalomLearning in My House

Not only am I the Chief Operating Officer at ShalomLearning, I am also the parent of a 4th grade ShalomLearning student, which think it has helped be better in both of these roles.

Being very familiar with our content I definitely have an advantage when my son asks me questions at the dinner table Sunday night. “Oh, you want to talk about how people can see two different things in the same picture?

Sure, I know exactly why you’re bringing that up and how it relates to this month’s value of B’tzelem Elohim (honoring the image of God in ourselves) because I also thought that was a cool part of the curriculum.” Ok, that’s not exactly what I say, but you get the idea.

And on the rare occasion (he’s a bit of a thinker and a talker) he doesn’t bring it up, I have some topics up my sleeve to get him chatting more about what they discussed in class that morning. And let’s face it, my husband and younger child are also benefiting. Not only because they get to hear this highly stimulating conversation about why people might see the same thing differently, and how we should always look for the best in others since we are all made in God’s image (B’tzelem Elohim), we all start to actually practice these values.

So when the cup gets knocked over, and the 5-year old complains because we are “having chicken again,” I use my gevurah (using one’s inner and outer strength) to keep my cool just a little bit longer so I can remember we are B’tzelem Elohim, and if I do lose it, I can do teshuvah (taking responsibility for my actions) and get it right the next time.

So, yes, my knowledge of the curriculum gives me an edge over most Hebrew school parents, but it doesn’t solve everything. I still have many of the same issues – especially that over-scheduled life one. We are constantly multi-tasking/dropping balls.

This means I’ve forgotten about class until 5 minutes after it started (luckily the computer is just seconds away), each week I am searching for a time my son can login to do the homework, and I hear the groans from my kid when the lesson may have “missed the mark” (to borrow a term from teshuvah) and didn’t resonate with him.

When these things happen, it’s both terrible and terrific because as a member of the ShalomLearning team, I can think about how we make it better. I love hearing from all of our families and educators about all the little and not-so-little things we can do to improve our programming.

This past year alone we added a 7th grade curriculum, an online only Hebrew program, made updates to our 3rd-6th curriculum, and upgraded our learning management system to make it easier for students and teachers to find and complete assignments. There is so much more to come including a second grade curriculum and new approaches to learning Hebrew and the prayers.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me with your ideas. You never know how it could grow and help so many others.

Download Lesson Plan