Thursday, November 26, 2009

Noah's Ark Class Poster

On Sunday mornings, I teach the kindergarten class at our synagogue religious school. I don't know how many PhDs in molecular biology teach kindergarten students, but I definitely believe that more of us should. Perhaps kindergarten education should be a requisite for medical and legal continuing education as well. Of course, we would call it something else, such as Advanced Studies in Humanistic Perspective.

You simply can not think too much of yourself when you teach 5 year olds. You can not take yourself too seriously when you are dancing around the classroom, flapping your arms. You can not worry about your professional image when you are reading a book that requires silly sound effects. Your students will see right through any conceit and call you on it.

That's why I have my students call me Mr. Winicur or Mr. Zev or sometimes just Zev if they can't remember the "Mr." part, but definitely not "Dr. Winicur." Protocols for honorifics are not worth their time and not worth my time. I figure that I can teach them respect for adults without confusing them about what to call whom when. Life is tough enough.

Part of my challenge is to come up with new and exciting ways to engage the students, particularly since I have such a mix of kids. Some of my kids are learning about Judaism for the VERY first time and some of them have been going to Jewish day school every day for the past three years. Some already know how to read, and some are just learning their A-B-Cs. It's a challenge.

So, whenever I come up with a new and exciting activity, I feel compelled to share it and, of course, brag about it. Just because I can't show off to them doesn't mean that I can't show off to YOU.

I call my activity the Noah's Ark Class Poster. Feel free to use it, but please reference me by name whenever you do. My name is Dr. Zev Winicur.


Noah's Ark is one of the best stories for kindergarteners because it bypassess all the boring theology, dogma, and philosophy, and cuts right to the fun stuff: animals and boats. Kindergarteners understand animals and boats.

1 piece of poster board
1 permanent marker
coloring pictures of animals (two of each animal)
coloring supplies (crayons, markers, pencils, etc.)
glue sticks

  1. Draw an ark on the poster board. It should take up most of the posterboard. It doesn't need to look pristine, but it helps if it is vaguely boat shaped. See the picture above.

  2. Find pictures of animals that can be colored in, and make two copies of each animal. Make sure that you have enough DIFFERENT animals so that there is one animal per student. I found (stole) many of my animals from various sites throughout the Web. I don't guarantee that I was not using copyrighted pictures, but I figured the chance of litigation by kindergartener was relatively low.

  3. Put one stack of the animal pictures on the tables in front of the students.

  4. Fold the rest of the animal pictures (the counterparts), and "hide" them around the room. You can decide how well to hide them based on whether you want this to be a remedial exercise, an afikomen hunt, or Indiana Jones's search for the Ark of the Covenant.

  1. Have each student select a picture from the pile on the table. This is their starting animal.

  2. Tell the kids that they must help Noah round up all the animals to put in the ark. To do this, they must find the other animal somewhere in the room.

  3. Tell the kids (AND THIS IS IMPORTANT) that the task is not complete until EVERYONE finds their animal. Therefore, if they come across an animal not their own, they should help their friends by saying, "Does anyone need a giraffe," etc.

  4. Once the kids all have found two of each animal, let them color their animal and cut it out.

  5. As each student finishes with their colored animals, have them glue the animals to the ark.

  6. Proudly display the class poster for at least three weeks until the students get bored with it.
This was a wildly successful activity. First of all, I was able to illustrate and personalize the story of Noah hunting for two of every animal. Second, the kids learned to work together. Many of them really got into helping their friends find their animals. Third, this is a class project, not an individual project, so the kids get to see the fruits of their labor in class every day. More importantly, the parents finally get a day free of tzotchkes that must be displayed on the refrigerator until it crumbles into dust.

No wonder the parents love me.


  1. This is wonderful! I absolutely love this idea.


  2. This is a great activity, Zev--sounds like you're all having a good time. We miss you!