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Torah Godly Play and Learning through Storytelling

At Billy Dalwin Preschool, weaving values, Jewish life, and culture into the curriculum builds a rich foundation for children to understand community and personal responsibility ultimately leading to the desire to make the world a better place. One of the focuses at Billy Dalwin is the dynamic approach of telling stories which allows us to guide children seamlessly through "Torah Godly Play." This approach engages children in storytelling, reflection, and spiritual exploration. 

What is Godly Play?

"Godly Play" is an approach to religious education developed by Jerome Berryman. It is a method used in many religious communities, including those within the Christian tradition, to engage children in learning about their faith. The Godly Play approach is characterized by its use of storytelling, wondering questions, and open-ended response time to help children explore their spirituality meaningfully.

Rabbi Michael Shire and Gina Tzizik
Rabbi Dr. Michael J. Shire and BIlly Dalwin Preschool Director Gina Tzizik

Rabbi Dr. Michael J. Shire is Chief Academic Officer at Hebrew College in Newton, MA, where he is also Dean and Professor of Jewish Education at the Shoolman Graduate School of Jewish Education and Jewish Studies, and Director of the Torah Godly Play project. This school year, he has inspired and taught our preschool staff as we begin to integrate the great stories into our daily lives. 

'How do we help nurture the innate sense of God in our children?' This was the question I was exploring when I came across a pedagogic method called Godly Play that is designed to do exactly that. Drawing upon the sacred stories of the Bible, Godly Play invites children into the entrancement of the narrative while leaving room for wonder, creativity and imagination as the child builds their own picture of a spiritual search and a Divine presence in their lives. Originating over 40 years ago from founder Jerome Berryman, a student of Maria Montessori, this methodology is in widespread usage in churches, early childhood centers, hospitals and hospices and now synagogues all over the world.

Rabbi Dr. Michael Shire

Torah Godly Play at Billy Dalwin Preschool

Torah Godly Play is an important part of the curriculum at Billy Dalwin Preschool for many reasons, including supporting young children's growth, development, and connection to our community.

Engagement: The Godly Play approach is highly engaging for children. Through storytelling and interactive elements, children become active participants in their learning which enhances their understanding and retention of the material.

Respect for the Child's Spiritual Journey: Godly Play respects children's innate spirituality and provides a safe and supportive environment to explore their faith and community stories. It allows children to participate actively in conversations about God, the community, and our history as a people. 

Developmentally Appropriate: The Godly Play approach focuses on simple hands-on methods and encourages children to use their imaginations and creativity to engage with the concepts and themes of the great stories.

Promotes Critical Thinking and Reflection: Through wondering questions and open-ended response time, Torah Godly Play encourages children to think critically about the stories they hear and reflect on their emerging beliefs and experiences. Young children are still forming their spiritual ideas. Torah Godly Play opens the door to a pathway of meaning and exploration. 

Fostering a Sense of Community: Torah Godly Play is a part of our classroom storytelling and communal events. Children can listen, think, and wonder about the stories in an intimate group where conversation organically blossoms. 

Fostering a sense of community is central to Billy Dalwin. Overall, we think deeply about the tools we use to empower children to develop an understanding of their abilities and personal agency. We are a nurturing, family-centered school that values and respects the many paths to wholeness.


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