The Bulletin

Third Graders Build Sukkah in the Side Yard

Thursday, September 2013

by Lauren Johnson Pilgrim, 3rd grade parent

The sukkah, a temporary structure, is built during the Jewish harvest festival of Sukkoth to remember the dwellings of the ancient Israelites during their exodus from Egypt. As architecture critic Paul Goldberger explains, “The sukkah is one of the very few times where Jewish liturgy and tradition has an architectural expression.” Thus the sukkah structure encourages those who experience it to dwell on–and in–the qualities of transience and impermanence.

Working with the class on Tuesday morning, it was easy to see just how many things have been in transition over the last few years. As parents of children in first grade and older, we don’t often find ourselves in the side yard where the young children play. Several of the third grade parents remarked how they missed beginning their days there and everyone appreciated the opportunity to visit with each other like we used to. When several of us noticed an early childhood student tenderly kissing his mother’s fingers, we silently acknowledged how much had changed since the last time we were in the side yard together.

Yet another reminder of the transformation underway was how our third grade children bounded into the side yard brimming with ideas and plans.

There was also no denying how strong, confident and mature my son and his friends looked as they carried in the wooden beams that would be used for the sukkah’s structure. Then there were the students tasked with starting the art panels that would form the sukkah’s walls. These panels depicted the creation story, Adam and Eve and the serpent, and Noah and his ark.

Because the students took turns working on each panel, the whole effort became a collaborative art project with all the social challenges this entails. The students discussed the important aspects of each story and tried their best to resolve any “artistic differences” diplomatically. When a historical anachronism was identified—a cat with a flea collar—they discussed whether this was very important and if anything should be done about it. Amidst their purposeful work, the third graders still had time for make believe. One student decided the sukkah needed to have a guard and began solemnly marching back and forth with a plastic rake over his shoulder!

As an object of impermanence, the third grade’s sukkah will remain in the side yard just through the end of Sukkoth on Wednesday evening. Please stop by before it’s gone!

To learn more about the construction of a sukkah, including what professional architects and designers came up with when challenged to build one, visit