We had a fantastic time at the Grade 3 & 4 Retreat this past weekend! In class, the Grade 3 students have been learning about how to bring holiness into our world by caring for ourselves and others and the Grade 4 students have been learning about how Jewish values can help us navigate our relationships with other people. Incorporated into both grades' curricula is the idea of standing up and being a leader, taking charge of a situation to work to make the world a better place.
The Retreat focused on a piece of text from the Talmud, "In a place where there is no leader, work or try to be a leader" (Brachot 63a). During the Retreat the students examined Moses, one of Judaism's most important leaders (and also someone who was reluctant to take on a leadership role!), as they considered what leadership means, as well as what qualities make us good leaders.
As students and parents arrived, there was a family activity where everyone at the table read a scenario together and then had to choose from a list of options as to how they would respond to the scenario. Participants were then challenged to convince the other people at the table as to why their response was the best choice.
Once everyone arrived, we moved into the Sanctuary for services.
Cantor Lawrence and our youth group Religious and Cultural Vice President, Samantha Eisner, co-led a Disney themed T'filah. As we welcomed Shabbat, the Disney theme of services set the tone for the evening, as Disney characters are often called upon to stand up and become leaders.
Following services, we enjoyed a delicious Shabbat dinner, after which it was time to say goodbye to the parents!
Before jumping into our activities, we created a brit (behavior contract) to make sure that everyone understood the rules for the evening. Then, we played a get-to-know-you game. Everyone was given a half of a leadership word and we had to find our match (like "resp" and "onsible"). Once we found the other half of our word, our cards matched up and had get-to-know-you questions on the back. Once we got to know our partner, we shared what we learned with everyone else in the group.
Then, Ms. Evans red us a story about Moses. After the story, we talked about what we can learn from Moses' life about how to be a leader. We got the chance to implement the leadership qualities that we talked about by participating in a series of three Moses themed leadership games!
Challenge 1: Collect the Hail
We were told that a plague has come to Egypt and the ground is covered in hail. It was our job to clean the hail up in one minute. After each attempt, we were given time to come up with strategies for improving our results.
Challenge 2: Finding the Path Through the Sea of Reeds
We were told that we had arrived at the Sea of reeds and need to cross to get away from the Egyptians. The only problem is that the path to safety is invisible! Through trial and error we had to find the right spots to step on and remember which ones were wrong. To add to the level of difficulty, we had to work together as a group without being able to talk to one another!
Challenge 3: Crossing Holy Ground
We were told that we were standing on the holy ground surrounding the Burning Bush and that we needed to find a way to cross over the holy ground. Just like Moses, we removed our shoes for this challenge! The object of the challenge was to trade places with a partner in the circle without touching anyone else.
After practicing our leadership skills in the challenges, it was time for PJs, a movie and bed!
In the morning, after a breakfast of freshly made pancakes, Cantor Lawrence led us a drum circle T'filah.
To review the leadership skills we'd discovered from learning about Moses, we worked in small groups to rank the qualities that it takes to be a leader from least important to most important.
We then considered how those leadership qualities could come to life in different scenarios:
Scenario: During lunch period a girl is making her way through the lunch line when a classmate approaches to ask if she can cut in front of her place in line. The girl replies no, saying that it isn’t fair to the people behind her. Annoyed, the other girl shoves her forcefully and takes her place in the line, all the other kids see this but, are afraid: You see this, what should you do?
Scenario: Your teacher introduces Eric, a new student, to the class. Eric is from another country. His clothes and way of speaking are different from the rest of his new classmates’. At lunch, Eric sits alone. You notice that. But many of your classmates think Eric is weird because of his clothes and the way he talks.
What should you do?
Scenario: It’s gym time and the teacher has elected you captain of one of the kickball teams. She tells you that you need to choose the players for your team. You want to pick the best players, but you know that some kids don’t play so well and are always picked last. You see them all standing in front of you waiting to be picked. What should you do?
Scenario: When you try to enter the bathroom at school, you see a younger student in tears. Three older students told him that he cannot use the bathroom. They have blocked the doors to the stalls as well as the exit. The older student blocking the entrance says to you, “You can’t come in, and if you say anything, you’ll be next.” What should you do?
We were allowed to choose five props...
... and got to perform one of the scenarios, and our idea for how we could be a leader in the given situation.
To end our time together, we decorated CDs with leadership words. The CDs act as mirrors so we can see ourselves as the leaders that we all know we can be!