The Torah Fair is a fair where we display 3D projects created by our students on different topics of Judaism. The projects are both creative and educational and all the schools in the city are invited to come and receive an educational guided tour given by our own students.
The Torah Fair
Two years ago was the inauguration of the Torah (Bible) Fair program in our school. It is a hands-on program that involves our students in every step of their learning. It is also a program about sharing with the wider Jewish community. At Yeshiva Yavne, students are blessed to have exceptional Judaic studies teachers that connect them to their roots and to their Jewish heritage. Our school felt, however, that is was not enough for the kids to be individually growing and learning, they must not only be students, they must also become teachers.
That’s when the idea of the Torah Fair came into fruition. Two years ago, each grade from third grade to eleventh grade chose a different topics of Judaism based on what they had learned in class and represented them in beautiful and elaborate 3D projects. These were displayed in our gymnasium, which was decorated for the grand occasion with beautiful white drapes to welcome our guests. Topics included stories from the Bible, the laws of kosher, prayer, our Jewish history, the Jewish holidays, and middot tovot (good character traits).
The projects were prepared in school with the respective teachers, and that aspect alone was a precious learning experience. The students used different artistic mediums, with remarkable creativity including pizza boxes to display intricate miniature scenes for their chosen concepts. Once the projects were displayed, the room was opened for parents and classes in our school to come and admire the art projects and to learn from them. This was not enough, though. We wanted to break down any barriers between our school and the world around us, so we invited all other schools to attend our fair to share in the knowledge and to mutually expand horizons. Therefore, all of the different schools from the community were invited to attend including Solomon Schechter Academy, Hebrew Academy, Akiva, Herzliah, Maimonide, Beth Rivka, and Beth Jacob School. The affiliation of schools ranged from Traditional Judaism, Conservative Judaism, Modern-Orthodoxy, Orthodoxy, and Hassidic Judaism. A school bus was provided for the transportation of our esteemed guests. Students were also involved and given the opportunity to welcome our guests from other schools, as well as, other adults coming to visit and lead them around the different projects, exchanging on the story of our people, our nation. At certain times, the room was completely full of students from different schools of our city, all united by our common past and identity. It was truly a site to behold!
The following year, after experiencing the success of our first Torah Fair, we decided to take on the topic of Shabbat and all its laws, originating from the 39 melachot (activities forbidden on Shabbat). We spent the year learning the laws with out students, so they would understand how the activities were performed in the time of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) and how the laws are applicable to us nowadays. We again invited all the different schools in out city to come and attend our fair where our students displayed the 39 different activities in 3D projects that displayed each activity how it was done in the Tabernacle and examples of how it should not be done nowadays. We had our students be the tour guides for over 1000 students and adults that attended our fair.
- Learn about and get a deeper understanding of different topics of Judaism.
- Use creativity and knowledge to display the information that has been learned.
- Connect with other schools of different religious affiliation within our city.
- Develop confidence in our students by having them be the tour guides.
- Heighten students’ motivation for learning and increase their ability to apply the information learned in a real world setting.
Inception and Planning
This program starts at the third grade level and goes until the end of high school, which is eleventh grade in Montreal. This past year, we decided to present the 39 melachot (activities forbidden on Shabbat). Each grade had a special program prepared for the them in order to teach them the 39 activities and how they were done during the time of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) and how they are done nowadays. Different grades learned the material by using different age appropriate books and activities, such as, creating scrapbooks on each of the 39 activities. We then divided each of the 39 activities forbidden on Shabbat between each of the classes. Each class needed to make 3D projects that represent how these activities were done during the time of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) and nowadays. The students used their creativity under the direction of their Hebrew teachers and the art teachers to created educational, esthetically appealing, and self-explanatory projects.
Both years that we have done the Torah Fair, we have reflected on how it was done successfully and what could be done for future improvement. One of the most successful aspects is the excitement that is shown by the students. Their excitement of creating the projects and especially their excitement of presenting their projects. We even had second grade girls that learned the information so well from the projects that they were able to present them to rabbis and other adults that came to visit our fair. When the students are enjoying their learning it is the best type of learning.
Regarding improvements, we would make sure to give schools within the city the opportunity to send more of their classes. Unfortunately, our fair was only open for four days and we had schools calling us to send more of their grades upon seeing how impressive and educational the fair was. There was not enough time, however, to invite the other grades.
Assessing the impact
It was amazing to see the pride that emanated from the students. Not solely from the hard work that they put into their projects, but also from the fact that they were able to successfully present the projects to others, including their own parents. The parents later told us that they had learned new information that they had not previously known.
The most recent fair took place this past May. We are presently in the following school year and have students wanting to know when the next fair will be taking place. Including the third grade students that didn’t have the opportunity to participate last year. They are excited and cannot wait to see what the fair’s topic will be this year.
At the end of each of the tours, we would also sit down the students from the different schools and ask them what they enjoyed seeing and what they had learned. The teachers from the other schools were always so impressed with how much their students had gained. A colleague of ours who sends her daughter to another school told us that she was impressed with how much her daughter came home knowing. We are hoping that the knowledge that was gained from our fairs will be remembered by all these children for a long time!
Explanation of Videos
Video 1: A video of an eighth grade student explaining the first half of the projects at our most recent Torah Fair. The video was sent to other schools that were interested in replicating our fair.
Video 2: A general view of the entire fair at the end of the day when the fair is open to all visitors within the city.
Video 3: A second grade student being the tour guide for Rabbi Aisenstark, principal of Beth Jacob School of Montreal for over 40 years.
Video 4: A third grade student being a tour guide for a visitor to our fair.
Video 5: A second grade student being a tour guide for younger students.
Video 6: An eighth grade student being a tour guide for a visiting school.
Video 7: Second grade students being tour guides for a visitor.
PDF Version, including photographs: