Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Bouncing in Bio

As I walked past a high school bio class last week I noticed that the kids were literally bouncing.  They were out of their seats, jumping up and down, and running around the classroom.  Thinking something was amiss, I walked into the classroom to see what was going on.  It was only then that I noticed the kids with thermometers in their mouths, those hooked up to blood pressure machines, those taking their pulse, and those furiously scribbling data on their worksheets.  It turns out I had walked into a skillfully orchestrated lab in which Dr. Soellner was teaching our boys (she had done the same thing with our girls earlier that morning) about homeostasis by having them measure their blood pressure, heart rate, and temperature before and after exercising in order to demonstrate the human body's capacity to adjust to new circumstances.

Here's a glimpse at what it looked like:

Friday, August 26, 2011

Opening Mishmar

The CYHSB Beit Midrash was ringing with kol Torah last night as high school boys, their fathers, their rebbeim, and a host of community members came out for our first mishmar of the year.  Everyone spent the first twenty minutes preparing source material relating to a passage in this week's parsha followed by a shiur which I gave.  Maariv came next, followed by a raffle, food for the boys and a late night game of basketball.

Here's a glimpse into what it looked and sounded like:

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

C21: Jewish Week Article

Much of the rationale which went into the launch of our C21 project is laid out in the article which I wrote for the New York Jewish Week several months ago, but which is just now being published as part of their special Education edition.  
You can read the full text of the article here.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

PTA Back to School BBQ

Once again we ushered in the new year with our PTA's Back to School Barbecue.  It was great to see lots of old faces mixed with many new ones, as everyone enjoyed a relaxing evening with friends and family.

The High Schools Are Off and Running

Bolstered by the addition of fantastic new faculty members,  new students from nine different states (Tennessee, Louisiana, Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Missouri, Illinois, and Wisconsin), and a giant infusion of educational technology, I dare say both high schools are off to their strongest start of the past five years.  It's not just enrollment which is up (higher than it's been in at least a decade, if not more), but enthusiasm, energy, and excitement as well.

Here are some pictures of the first few days:

Goldie Margolin School for Girls:

Cooper Yeshiva High School for Boys:

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Welcome Back!

There are few things as exciting as the first day of school...and today was no exception.  There were smiling faces everywhere, some familiar and some new.  Classrooms were filled with energized teachers and enthusiastic children and the sounds of learning percolated throughout the halls.  

Here are some of the sights and sounds for you to enjoy:

Second Grade with Morah Yehudit:

C21: The First Few Days

Laura Malbogat arrived in Memphis on Sunday to help us kick off our new Curriculum21 initiative.  She started by meeting with our admin team on Sunday night to give us her assessment of the considerable preparatory materials which we had provided her, to tell us what it said about where we were as a school, and to brainstorm with us as to what our first few steps ought to be.

On Monday, the project had its official launch with a three hour session in which Laura introduced herself to our faculty, masterfully set their minds at ease by insisting that we'd "go slow" and that each staff member would get individualized attention aimed at nurturing their growth as a 21st century educator at their own rate and from wherever it was they were starting.  She then reinforced the case for 21st century learning, which we have been discussing as a faculty now for over a year, through showing and discussing Ken Robinson's animated TED talk entitled "Changing Education Paradigms."  Lastly, she segued into a an activity focused on the creation of Essential Questions, which she told the faculty would be our entry point into the process of creating 21st century curricula.

Later in the day she spent some time meeting with our Early Childhood faculty and with our Lower School faculty with whom she further developed the concept of Essential Questions and challenged them to apply it to one unit plan from their own classes.  Today, she spent the entire day meeting one-on-one with those Lower School faculty members to talk about the lesson they had begun to upgrade yesterday, focus on areas that were challenging for them, and leave them "an assignment" to work on in anticipation of her next extended site visit in late October.

These next few days she'll shift her focus to the Upper School faculty, both General Studies and Judaic Studies, while also taking some time to observe some of our Lower School faculty in action.  We'll then take stock of what we've accomplished in our initial stage and create a plan for maintaining the momentum of faculty and administrator growth, risk-taking, and exploration until she comes to work with us again immediately after the chagim.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Road to 21st Century Learning

As many of you know, with the generous support of the AviChai Foundation, we have embarked upon a school-wide initiative aimed at creating and implementing a written yet flexible, standards-based, inquiry-driven, differentiated curriculum for all disciplines, PreK-12, in which 21st century skills for both General and Judaic studies are explicitly taught through the core curricular areas.  Leading us through what will undoubtedly be a multi-year process is Ms. Laura Malbogat, a wonderful educational consultant from Montreal with significant experience and expertise both in curriculum development and in 21st century learning.

Therefore, in addition to my regular posts about events and accomplishments around school, I'll be using the blog this year to update you on the progress we're making toward this particular goal.  I'll share pictures and video clips, resources we're exploring, and projects our faculty will be working on.  Each post about this initiative will start with "C21," short hand for Heidi Hayes Jacob's Curriculum21, the book - and now the organization - which provided the initial inspiration for this undertaking. 

Please feel free to comment and to contribute to the conversation as we intend for this to be a collaborative project in which we will be learning from many different people and many different sources, and perhaps others will learn from us as well.