Students creatively engaged
First-graders at Yeshiva Schools of Pittsburgh will be learning about the first six days of creation through their own process of creation, as the Lubavitch school becomes part of the Kickstarting Making In Schools Project, helmed by the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh.
Yeshiva Schools of Pittsburgh was selected by the Children’s Museum as one of 10 schools to be part of a pilot program known as the Maker Movement, an innovative method of classroom learning.
Yeshiva Schools joins Burgettstown Elementary Center, Cecil Intermediate School, Environmental Charter School, Fanny Edel Falk Laboratory School, Kiski Area Upper Elementary School, Ligonier Valley High School, Monesson Elementary Center, Pittsburgh Lincoln PreK-5 and Pittsburgh Woodland Hills Intermediate Center to participate in the new project-based learning initiative.
Yeshiva Schools was chosen by the Children’s Museum for the project out of the pool of 24 applicants because the school “was really interested in exploring how the idea of how making can be integrated into its core curriculum as well as its Judaic curriculum,” said Teresa DeFlitch, the museum’s Kickstarting Making Project Manager. “We thought this was a unique opportunity.”
Through the program, teachers will be encouraged to use different types of materials and processes — both old and new technology — that engage students in a more inventive way.
The pilot initiative is centered on crowdfunding campaigns to help schools procure funding to redesign areas of the facility that will help integrate the Maker Movement into their curriculum.
“We are testing the method of raising funds for schools to partner with the museum,” DeFlitch said.
Yeshiva Schools’ campaign on Kickstarter is seeking to raise $5,000 to “reimagine and refurnish the first-grade girls’ and boys’ classrooms so that they promote collaborative learning, making and play,” according to the school’s Kickstarter page. The funds will be used to incorporate flexible seating and tables that allow for projects that involve different kinds of tools and materials, and to make the rooms more comfortable, “to inspire our students to think creatively and reflect on their learning.”
The Maker Movement project at Yeshiva Schools is now in its “infancy stage,” according to Leah-Perl Shollar, general studies director of the girls’ school.
“We want to redesign the classroom based on a proposal by the Children’s Museum and teachers,” Shollar said. “We are also about to embark on a curricular redesign of an interdisciplinary unit in which we explore literacy through Bereshit.”
That exploration will include hands-on creating as promoted by the Maker Movement.
Yeshiva Schools will incorporate extensive use of art, craft, design, photography, journaling and technology to learn about the six days of creation, “and what they mean for us today,” according to the school’s Kickstarter page.
As an example, Yeshiva students will learn about the creation of light and dark, study various types of light and rainbows and experiment with photosensitive paper and make a camera obscura. They will also examine prisms and learn how they work and discuss “what we can’t see or touch, but know is there – like feelings, your soul, Hashem (G-d).”
The process of making is not new, noted DeFlitch.
“It’s been around since the beginning of human kind. But the Maker Movement brings a critical eye to what the students learn through making. They learn innovation, entrepreneurship and creativity. They apply what they’re learning in a creative way. They bring the ideas they have in their head into tangible projects.”
Making is growing in popularity in schools, with the aim of engaging students to develop creativity, critical thinking and persistence, according to DeFlitch. The Children’s Museum has been researching making for the past five years and has developed a set of practices to facilitate hands-on learning.
The Museum hosted workshops on how to launch a successful Kickstarter campaign so the schools chosen for the pilot programs could raise the funding necessary to get their Maker Movement projects off the ground.
Shollar also attended an initial training session and workshops at the Children’s Museum to learn how to employ the philosophy and techniques of the Maker Movement and how to apply it to all age levels, she said.
Although the project will be introduced in the first-grade classrooms, Shollar intends for it to expand eventually to other grades as well.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Shollar said. “The Children’s Museum is emphasizing that while this should not be the end-all for every single subject, it is another nice, robust approach to have. It’s another tool we have to engage our kids.”
Yeshiva Schools has already begun to gather recycled materials that its students can use to problem solve and for enabling children to find “unique ways to create and express themselves,” Shollar said.
She plans to begin the project focusing on the six days of creation by the end of November.
The Maker Movement is “an attempt to bring more authentic learning to the classrooms,” Shollar said. “It gets kids to stop and think and ask questions, and helps kids come to more exact language about what they are doing.”
Toby Tabachnick can be reached at email@example.com.