Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Jewish Passover: Connecting Montessori Activities with Cultural Celebrations

NAMC montessori classroom activities cultural curriculum Jewish passover reading the haggadah
Last year, my Montessori students were fascinated as some of their classmates told the story of Passover to the rest of the class. My Passover “experts” knew almost all of the answers to the questions their classmates asked, and then as a class, we researched the answers to the questions they did not know. This year, we are planning to bake unleavened bread and yeast bread, which will nicely tie in with discussing the history of Passover and its relationship with unleavened bread. This will also be an opportunity to observe chemical reactions, and integrate the Montessori sciences curriculum! We have pulled together many interesting historical facts and activities for you to share with your Montessori classroom.

Jewish Passover: Connecting Montessori Activities with Cultural Celebrations

This year from April 9-16, Jewish people around the world will celebrate the Feast of Passover (Pesach in Hebrew). Passover is one of the most important religious holidays in the Jewish faith; it celebrates Moses leading the children of Israel from Egypt. Passover has been celebrated since 1300 BC. The story of Passover can be found in the Book of Exodus. The Israelites (The Children of Israel) had been slaves in Egypt for 210 years. God promised to release them, but the Pharaoh refused to release the Israelites. God sent 10 plagues to Egypt that affected the Egyptians but not the Israelites. The Nile turned to blood, frogs ran all over Egypt, and dust turned to lice. Swarms of flies poured over the land and all livestock died. There were boils, hail and locusts. Egypt was completely dark for three days. The final plague was the plague of the firstborn son. During this time, an angel would kill every firstborn son that was not an Israelite. Israelites would mark their doors with blood of a lamb and this way the angel would know to “passover” this house.

The Egyptians were so scared the Pharaoh told the Israelites to leave. They took unleavened bread on their journey (they did not have time to add yeast) and lived off of this bread for the first days of their journey.
NAMC montessori classroom activities cultural curriculum Jewish passover girl eating soup
Today, Jewish people celebrate by cleaning their houses in preparation for Passover. They rid their homes of all chametz (leaven). Not only does this commemorate the Jewish people leaving Egypt with unleavened bread, but also symbolizes removing “puffiness” (arrogance and pride) from their souls. A Jewish person may not eat chametz during Passover. During Passover, there are days of rest, a fast for firstborns and seder meals. Seder means order, and everything about the meals- including the plates and cutlery- is special.

A book called the Haggadah is read. It tells the story of the Jewish experience in Egypt. It also contains these four questions: Why do we eat unleavened bread? Why do we eat bitter herbs? Why do we dip our food in liquid? and Why do we eat in a reclining position? Usually, the youngest member of the celebration asks these questions of their father. Interestingly, the questions should be asked spontaneously, yet the celebration cannot begin until they have been asked.

Montessori Activities
  • Since seder means order, having a seder meal is a perfect activity for a Montessori classroom. Montessori students of all ages will enjoy the food and order!
  • Try something new and excite your students at the same time. Use PowerPoint or MovieMaker to make a “movie” to introduce your students to Jewish Passover.
  • Ask your Jewish students if they would like to be your Passover experts and present a lesson to the other students. They could create 3-part nomenclature cards for Passover vocabulary, the ten plagues, or the sequence of Passover events.
  • Through the course of the school year, have small groups select different holidays, festivals and celebrations to research. As these groups share their research with the class, discuss similarities and differences between cultures and religions.
  • Challenge the students to find the answers to the four questions.
  • Discuss slavery throughout history.
Suggested Books
  • The Passover Seder, by Emily Sper
  • Sammy Spider's First Passover, by Sylvia A. Rouss and Katherine Janus Kahn
  • The Matzah Man: A Passover Story, by Naomi Howland
  • My First Passover, by Tomie dePaola
  • Only Nine Chairs: A Tall Tale for Passover, by Deborah Uchill Miller
  • Miriam’s Cup: A Passover Story, by Fran Manushkin and Bob Dacey
  • P is for Passover, by Tanya Lee Stone
  • Creating Lively Passover Seders: A Sourcebook of Engaging Tales, Texts & Activities, by David Arnow
Source and Resource: Religion & Ethics: Judaism (includes answers to the Four Questions) Cultural celebrations provide a special opportunity for peace education in the Montessori classroom, at any age. Understanding and embracing diversity is an important aspect of childhood education, and learning about other cultures through celebrations is a wonderful way to foster shared respect and tolerance.
As much as possible, NAMC’s web blog reflects the Montessori curriculum as provided in its teacher training programs. We realize and respect that Montessori schools are unique and may vary their schedules and offerings in accordance with the needs of their individual communities. We hope that our readers will find our articles useful and inspiring as a contribution to the global Montessori community.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Tuesday, March 31, 2009.


  1. Thank you for the kind words! I am so glad you enjoyed the blog.


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