At The Toronto Heschel School, Jewish education fuses with environmental education and stewardship. Reflecting our dedication to the environment, Heschel is the first of its kind to be designated a Platinum EcoSchool.
The school’s environmental ethos is grounded in A.J. Heschel’s deep respect for creation and his view that the natural world is our “sibling,” co-created with us and deserving of care and concern. As such, students learn the essential Jewish commitment of respecting the earth and leaving it healthy for future generations.
Across the grades, students bring this learning to life in various ways. Our little ones audit the school’s waste and make recommendations for improvement. Grade 4 students raise salmon eggs in partnership with the Toronto Zoo to help rejuvenate Ontario’s salmon population. Grade 7 students learn a well-known Talmudic tale about planting trees so that we leave for others what our ancestors left for us. In response, they grow saplings in the Heschel Garden and design protective enclosures, hand-painted with one of two messages:
“What we found in the world.” “What we will leave in the world.”
The Heschel Garden mirrors this vision and is at the core of outdoor learning at the school. Our educators develop and teach interdisciplinary education that weaves into how and why our garden grows, from the botanical to the biblical, from the proverbial to the organic. Using the garden as a hands-on laboratory, children not only learn about interconnected living systems and where their own nourishment originates; they also learn to embody Tikkun Olam and Derekh Eretz. They develop pride and delight in taking care of the natural world and this translates into care for one another.
We strongly believe that environmental and outdoor education has positive benefits for children’s cognitive, social-emotional, and physical wellbeing. Nature evokes children’s natural sense of awe and wonder, sparking curiosity, investigation, and discovery, and releasing positive emotion, all of which can be leveraged for the greater good of our community and world.