A Living Sukkah: ELC Students Learn, Feel, and Taste the Holidays

by Jodie Raffensperger

One of the great things about running the children's garden at the Brenner Family Early Learning Center is the opportunity to truly celebrate the agricultural cycle which our holidays are based upon.  We get to feel the rhythm of the earth, and grow the things that particular holidays connect to: apple trees for Rosh Hashanah, potatoes and onions for Hanukkah, and pomegranates, figs, and grapes for Tu B' Shvat.


Case in point is our recent celebration of Sukkot, the Festival of the Harvest.  All of the children worked hard to create beautiful decorations for our unbelievable "Living Sukkah."  


We have a structure inside our garden that I planted clematis vines around.  These vines grow up the seven posts that form the structure.  All summer, they twist, climb, and curl up the posts and across the top, creating a living, breathing, green space for our children to play, learn, and snack in.  We plant corn, sunflowers, and herbs to create three walls that surround the structure by fall....just in time for Sukkot.


The children were excited to help me put up the s'chach, the branches that cover the top, and create a roof where you can see the stars, but still be protected from the rain.  This year, we celebrated Shabbat in our sukkah.  We learned the blessings particular to Sukkot, we lit the Shabbat candles, and said the brachot for juice and challah.


We talked about the Harvest.  I told them that I had gathered the last of the beans, peppers, and tomatoes to share along with our challah, because on that very night, they were calling for our first real frost.  It could mean the end of our 2019 growing season, but oh, what a way to go...to celebrate in our garden, in our sukkah, with our own "last" fruits. To feel the earth and share in its life cycle!


Chag Sameach.