Community Blog Make a Big Mess and Play with Everything and Other Educational Models
As the scavenger hunt wrapped up, I headed back to our table in the education center where I assumed we would debrief. A few minutes later, still alone, I went to find my students, who had gathered around the mikveh with our Mayyim Hayyim hosts and educators. This small but intentional decision, to debrief mikveh-side, dramatically changed the process of reflection. One student laid down to test the water’s temperature. The space was demystified and open for interrogation.
This all reminded me of how a good friend welcomed my children to her home for the first time. As she squatted at their level by the front door, she told them about the house rule: “You need to make a big mess and play with everything . . . but you are NOT allowed to clean up!” This delighted my kids and encouraged them to play with abandon and to feel at home immediately (though I’m sure it made for quite a bit of work for our hosts). Likewise at Mayyim Hayyim, my students and I were invited into an immaculate and often private space with our dirty boots and our questions. We were encouraged to snoop around, to explore and to play.
In our time together, we discussed the history of mikveh, ritual innovation, experiential education and change-oriented leadership. Yet, the modeling of welcoming space and open educators, hands-on experience and reflection, and the keep-your-boots-on hospitality were likely just as impactful on these educators as they develop their own philosophies of embracing their learners to come as they are.
Deborah Skolnick Einhorn is an Assistant Professor of Jewish Education and the Assistant Dean for Academic Development and Advising in Hebrew College’s Shoolman School of Jewish Education. Deborah’s teaching and research focuses on education, sociology and the history of American Jews, and particularly on women’s organizations and philanthropy. She received her Ph.D. from Brandeis University and is also an alumna of Tufts University and the Jewish Theological Seminary.