The high school boys put on another remarkable show last week, with their annual Steak Dinner. A fundraiser for their activities budget, the Steak Dinner is a four-course sit-down meal (steak, of course) for three hundred people, replete with entertainment, a dvar Torah, and a tribute video, all of which - from grilling the steaks to choosing the nominee and from playing the music to washing the pots - is done by our high school students. Certainly, Rabbi Gersten, our Mashgiach Ruchani, plays no small part in getting them organized and ready to roll. As he pointed out at this year's event, the Steak Dinner is a wonderful example of 21st century learning in the sense that it requires significant collaborative efforts, it offers opportunities for creativity and differentiation, and it requires our students to solve real world problems in a high pressure, performance based, framework. There is no doubt that in addition to the memories they accumulate from the Steak Dinner each year, the skills our students acquire in the process will also last them a lifetime.
Congratulations to Dr. Whitney Kennon for being the recipient of the boys' tribute this year!
Here are some of the sites and sounds for your enjoyment:
This is now the second year that our Early Childhood teachers have been using Photo Story in their classrooms. This simple slide show software is a powerful way of honing the descriptive and articulation skills of our youngest children while introducing them to technology as a means of communication. As you can see from this example by the four-year olds in our PreK-4, it's also a great way of bringing the stories of our Judaic Studies curriculum to life.
Though it was a few weeks ago, I wanted to share with you the Prezi which we put together for our high school open house. During the event itself, the Prezi was shown in a darkened room and following each of the videos, a spotlight turned to one of our high school students, perched upon a platform in the corners of the room, who spoke for a few moments about the topic represented in the video.
It's been almost a month since I last blogged and there is so much to catch up on I don't even know where to start. Our students have been busier than ever and hardly a day has gone by without an exciting program or an inspiring moment, in at least one of our divisions. Here a few of the highlights:
Last month we were visited by a representative from the Dixon Art Museum, who read The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkinsby Barbara Kelly and then led our students in an exercise to try and mimic the Victorian artist's style. Shortly thereafter, our 6th grade launched its incredibly exciting ePals program. Harnessing the internet and the power of webcams, our students are having meaningful conversations and getting invaluable cross-cultural exposure with students in Italy, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Uganda. It isn't every day that our middle class Jewish children in Memphis, Tennessee get to interact with gifted AIDS orphans in a small village in Africa.
For Thanksgiving our students all learned the lessons of gratitude and appreciation by reaching out to the less fortunate. From the elementary students who put together toiletry bags for the homeless to the high school girls who delivered them while giving up their own vacation time to volunteer at downtown shelter, there was a spirit of community outreach and social action throughout the school.
Our Middle School got into the giving spirit as well. Keeping with what has become a wonderful tradition, our Middle School boys "took on" the students of the Shrine School in a "fierce" game of basketball. For half of the game our students saw a game they knew well from a completely different perspective: seated in a wheelchair. With students of all ages cheering them on, the Shrine students had the time of their lives notching another "victory" in their illustrious school record.
Reaching beyond the walls of our school and seeing the perspectives of others also played a significant role in the other classes this past month. Both of our high schools visited the Memphis Public Library to see the Choosing to Participate exhibit created by Facing History and Ourselves. Facing History, which has one of their national offices here in Memphis, is an organization dedicated to teaching students about the harms of racism, antisemitism, and prejudice around the world. Several of our teachers have attended their training seminars and we have been most fortunate to benefit from their outstanding materials and programs.
Our fourth grade also expanded its educational reach with a markedly 21st century twist. As a new wrinkle in their traditional state fair program, the 4th grade set out to collect postcards from all 50 states. In spreading the word, it was suggested that this may presented an opportune time to teach the 4th graders about the positive and educational power of social media. I was invited to the classroom, along with our Tweeter in Residence, Rabbi Akevy Greenblatt, to show the students what Twitter was and how it gave us the power to instantly reach thousands of people with common interests across the globe. Of course, we took the opportunity to talk to the 4th graders about the potential hazards of social media as well and insisted that they only use these types of forums with the help of an adult.
Believe it or not, that only begins to scratch the surface of all that has happened here over the past month, but at least it provides a small taste of the rich learning experiences in which our children are engaging. I hope to return to far more regular blog posts after we return from our winter break.