The New Year of the Trees: Ecological EdTech for Tu Bishvat

January 04, 2017

Source: DigitalJLearning Network


The holiday of Tu Bishvat begins this year on Friday evening, February 10th. As the Jewish holiday most closely connected to the environment and the natural world, Tu Bishvat provides a great opportunity for teachers to include earth and environmental science in their curriculum. This year, we were inspired by Jewish texts about the natural world. For each text, we’ve taken out a particular topic you can focus on in your classroom and provided educational technology resources that can help your students reach their learning goals. Our hope is that after using these tools and developing a stronger understanding of Earth, your students will have a more meaningful Tu Bishvat.


“It is good to pray and dialogue with God in the field amongst the grass and trees. When a person prays in the field then all the plants and animals join in the praying and help him or her giving strength to the prayer.” (Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav) Our environment affects how we feel and how we function. Ecosystems affect animals and plants similarly. Your students can investigate different natural ecosystems, how they work, and how animals and plants survive and thrive there.


“In the hour when the Holy one, blessed be He, created the first person, He showed him the trees in the Garden of Eden, and said to him: ‘See My works, how fine they are; Now all that I have created, I created for your benefit. Think upon this and do not corrupt and destroy My world, For if you destroy it, there is no one to restore it after you.’” (Qohelet Rabbah 7:28) It’s easy to take the resources we have for granted, but what we have on Earth is finite, and (so far!) we have just one planet that we can call home. Students may have a vague notion about recycling from home but may not fully understand the underlying reasons for conservation and sustainability. They can use the time around Tu Bishvat to investigate why it is important to conserve our natural resources for future generations.


Rabbi Shimon said, “There is no plant without an angel in Heaven tending it and telling it, ‘Grow!'” (Bereishit Rabbah 10:7) Plants manage to live with just sunlight and water (and perhaps with that angel’s help as well!) Their remarkable growth processes can be a bit of a mystery to students, who will enjoy learning all about the plant life cycle with these fun, interactive resources.

Geographical Features

“In order to serve God, one needs access to the enjoyment of the beauties of nature - meadows full of flowers, majestic mountains, flowing rivers. For all these are essential to the spiritual development of even the holiest of people.” (Rabbi Abraham ben Maimonides) Geographical features are certainly some of the most intriguing elements on planet Earth. Before your students try to explain the complex meaning behind this quote, you can first have them investigate the science of Earth’s geographical features in more depth.

Read the entire post and listing of recommended educational technology resources here.

Updated: Jan. 12, 2017