Red Sea, Blue Feet: Experiencing crossing the Sea of Reeds

A lot of Shoresh families know that I love to go big. So this past week at Shoresh, few were surprised when our 2nd/3rd grade group recreated walking through the Sea of Reeds ('Red Sea') by stepping through blue paint. Ben, the 2nd/3rd grade teacher, led the group in a visualization exercise to get them ready to "walk through" the Sea of Reeds. They pictured themselves in the desert after escaping from Pharaoh, talked about the courage and faith the Jews needed to cross the Sea of Reeds, and imagined what it would feel like to step towards freedom.
 
I knew going in that it would be a pretty messy activity. Our building supervisor, Corey Caver, wasn't surprised in the least when I told him about what we were doing; he shook his head and braced himself for blue paint everywhere. I set up the room with a mat for learners to step on after they crossed the Sea of Reeds, and prepared bins of water and towels for the parent volunteer to help them clean off their feet. Ben had the activity writeup and helped prepare the learners, helped them take off their shoes and socks, and led them through the visualization.
 
"Imagine you have escaped from Egypt in haste. You have traveled throught the desert only to reach the 'uncrossable' Yam Suf (Sea of Reeds). Behind you, the Egyptian army is closing in. Take a step toward the Sea of Reeds if you are scared. Take an extra step forward if you feel faith that God will protect you, individual courage to face this difficult situation, or strength in the number of people facing the situation with you." Ben continued speaking and helping them visualize the experience that the Jews went through in the Book of Exodus to flee from Pharaoh and walk through the Sea of Reeds to freedom.
 
Then, one at a time, they stepped into a bin of blue paint and walked across the butcher paper, leaving footprints along the way. They were hesitant! "I am super cautious so I hesitated," one learner wrote afterwards, "but persisted and ignored the little voice in my head and successfully crossed." Another wrote "It was fun, cold, and slippery putting my feet in paint!"
 
When they had crossed over the 'Sea of Reeds', they exulted. They felt free. They celebrated! Here's a selection of what they wrote about their experience:
  • "It felt weird leaving, but I had a chance to be free!"
  • "I knew it was safe and for good causes."
  • "God was with us the whole time."
  • "It was weird at first, but fun... would Pharaoh get me?"
  • "I was not scared because I knew others were doing it with  me."
  • "I feeled nervous because [I was] going on blue paint and at the end [it] felt awesome!"
  • "When I walked through the paint, my feet felt cold... but I also felt free!"
  • "It was so hard to get the courage to walk through a parted sea, but at the end I wanted to do it again."

They recreated crossing the Sea of Reeds. They imagined what the Jews might have felt like fleeing Egypt thousands of years ago. They experienced what happened in the Book of Exodus to learn the story. And—of their own accord—they used towels to wipe the floor and clean up the blue paint.

And that's why I like to go big.

 

* Special thanks to JTeach.org and the Board of Jewish Education of Metropolitan Chicago, which wrote this program.