Dr. Gereboff's Head Notes
Last week, kindergartners learned about brains with a Wornick parent and her team of neuropathologists from UCSF. This was part of the students’ exploration of structures in the human body. They learned about how the UCSF team investigates different problems connected to the brain. Their teachers continue to challenge these five and six year olds to raise “I wonder” questions and to set out on quests to discover answers. About a month ago, our fifth graders completed their extensive artist projects, and then had the chance to study with a working artist. After learning how he approaches a project, they worked on an assignment of their own under his direction. Recently, Grades K-3 had a private concert with the Israel Chamber Project musicians. These exceptional musicians came to us through a partnership with Music at Kohl Mansion and the PJCC. Our students had the chance to figure out how each player plays the correct music without a conductor. They explored how stringed instruments produce sounds as an extension of studying vibration in science class. This time they heard how different combinations of vibrations create unique musical compositions.
These sorts of encounters aren’t stand-alone events. They are opportunities that our teachers embrace because of the way we think about learning in general and project-based learning more specifically. Encounters with experts are a “best-practice” in project-based learning. The rationale is that when students are able to see the applications of what they are learning to the world outside school; they grow to value and seek out experts. This practice also provides a window into future career possibilities.
These encounters require a particular type of teacher to make it happen. Teachers need to be flexible with regard to scheduling such opportunities, and always be on the lookout for good fits with their curricula. They need to prepare students before each new activity, as well as connect the learning to the required standards for that subject.
There is a new term gaining traction in the teaching world – teacherpreneur. This describes a teacher who actively makes these real-life connections happen. Teacherpreneurs are innovative, willing to go off-script to bring new ideas into the classroom, and possess a drive that pushes them beyond traditional teaching practices. They are constantly looking for, or creating, solutions to different classroom challenges. These teacherpreneurs are highly networked and they both seek and provide guidance among their colleagues.
We have a school full of amazing teacherpreneurs, and every student reaps the benefits. Our teachers are frequently dreaming up new ways to approach a particular unit of study. They are energized by the excitement of discovery. On any given day, one can walk into our staff lounge and overhear an animated conversation among teachers from different grades brainstorming new ways to approach a subject.
Every year in every class, there are multiple opportunities to observe our teacherpreneurs in action. One of our most inspiring examples occurs in the seventh grade tzedakah project. Due to the initiative of our teachers, Wornick offers our 7th graders an interdisciplinary project unique from any other school - one which has a lasting impact on our students, and the community that they serve.
Different components of the project are done in Social Studies, English, Technology, Judaic Studies and Advisory classes. The students begin the year learning about the history and textual tradition of Jewish values; eventually selecting the value they most want to enact in the world. In Social Studies, they learn about social issues (i.e. poverty, environmental destruction, at-risk youth) and select the social issue that they feel is the both most important to solve and resonates most with their chosen Jewish value. They research the social issue in-depth; while selecting a non-profit organization that enacts the value and works to solve the issue. The students interview representatives of the organization and volunteer there as well. They create a persuasive essay and a 6-8 minute presentation to lobby their classmates about the worthiness of their cause. While all this is going on, the seventh graders also learn different fundraising techniques for their projects. Last year’s class raised over $30,000, which was distributed to over twenty organizations. We welcome you to see the culmination of this project in our yearly tzedakah celebration that takes place in late May.
The spirit of our teaching staff, our teacherpreneurs, was one of the strongest commendations from the visiting accreditation team two weeks ago. They observed up close their collaboration, excitement about their own learning, flexibility, and desire to reach every student. Thank you to our dedicated and talented teacherpreneurs for showing us “best practice” teaching throughout the year. We couldn’t ask for better role models for our community of learners.
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