PORTLAND — Students at the Levey Day School are taking the holidays into their own hands.

To celebrate Hanukkah, students at the school, which serves pre-kindergarten students through fifth-graders at 400 Deering Ave., have been building their own menorahs for the past two weeks from recycled materials.

Diana Kovinsky, who teaches Hebrew and Judaic studies at the school, first began the school-wide project four years ago as a way for students to “think outside the box” and get creative when celebrating Hanukkah. She said the students build the menorahs out of recycled materials on their own at home with their families.

“We try to encourage our kids to recycle and bring light to the world,” Kovinsky said.

Head of School Gerri Chizeck said Levey School, which is a member of the Jewish Community Day School Network, is “a very hands-on school” to begin with, and projects are often applied to learning. She said some of the menorahs students made can actually be used and lit during the holiday, which began Dec. 6 and ends Dec. 14.

All told, 16 of the school’s 30 students participated in the project, yielding a total of 19 menorahs. Kovinsky said building the menorahs is a family project, where parents can also talk about the Hanukkah story while making a menorah with their children.


“I want the kids to think, ‘What at home can I use?'” she said, adding that the project can be an alternative for families who can’t afford an expensive menorah. “They can apply that skill later in life. If I can’t find it, I can build it.”

The menorahs ranged in size and materials. Some were made of recycled materials such as cardboard, while others were made from materials found around the house, like Legos and toy dinosaurs. Kindergartner Naomi Freidenreich built her menorah out of recycled make-up boxes she found at home over the course of a few nights.

“Deciding which boxes were going to be in it (was the best part),” she said.

Fifth-grader Jacob Lucier built his menorah with his father from plastic cups and a spare piece of wood. He said all told, the project took them about eight hours between cutting and painting the wood and filling the cups with glitter.

“For me the meaning of this (project) is to have the kids have fun and see how to be creative,” Lucier said. “… It shows how different menorahs can be built in different ways.”

Kovinsky said students will vote on their favorite menorahs Wednesday, with chocolates and dreidels awarded as prizes. The school is celebrating Hanukkah a few other ways as well. On Wednesday, students will be heading to the Maine Veterans Home on 290 U.S. Route 1 in Scarborough to sing and play games with the residents. Then on Thursday, they will head to the Maine Mall for various celebrations.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

From left, Naomi Freidenreich, Avi Israel and Jacob Lucier, all students at the Levey Day School in Portland, showcase the menorahs they built out of various materials.

More than a dozen students at Levey Day School in Portland made menorahs out of everyday objects and recycled materials to celebrate Hanukkah, which ends Dec. 14.

From left to right, Levey Day School students Anya Heiden, Bea Schatz, Avi Israel, teacher Diana Kovinsky, and students Jacob Lucier and Naomi Freidenreich.

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