My daughter Dalia, who is in first grade, will likely work from around 2025 to 2070. Who can say what the world will be like 60 years from now? Sixty years ago, when my grandmother was in the work force, it looked very little like the work world today. No cell phones, computers, internet, network, or wifi. Preparing Dalia for the future is a challenge in our ever changing world. She needs to understand enough to ask the right questions, solve problems creatively, think critically, and have the confidence to constantly adapt and learn. Moreover, she needs to know where she comes from, who she is, and have deep values to guide her through life.
Beginning in kindergarten, Dalia, and all the students at JCDS, receive the enormous gifts of master teachers, and a caring, diverse, community of learners all within a bilingual environment. The progressive education found at JCDS embraces the challenge of preparing students for the 21st century through many different methods. What strikes me most as a parent is the computational thinking and inquiry based approach to learning in partnership with character development, prayer, Hebrew, text study, and holiday and Shabbat celebrations that act as the foundation for all other learning.
Through a partnership with Tufts University and as part of a program funded by the National Science Foundation, JCDS piloted an innovative Jewish identity robotics program last year. At age 5, Dalia programmed a robot through an interactive hybrid graphical tangible computer language. She hypothesized and tested her theories, returned to improve her work, made personal connections through the identity piece of the project and ultimately, gained confidence, broadened her mind, and deepened her soul. My kid is now speaking a third language, computer, and there is no way I can keep up with that.
To really understand the impact of the project, you should watch the video and see the kids immersed in the everyday learning, pluralism and academic excellence practiced at JCDS. As a mother, I want my daughter to find math and science accessible, to experience satisfaction from hard work and success, and to develop the confidence that comes from a clear sense of self. The absolute delight for school and learning that comes across in the video is evidence of the fulfillment of these wishes.
Remarkably, this is but one project in a year of amazing learning that spirals seamlessly upward in each grade. Students are speaking and programming in two languages, building robots of different sorts, and coding animated videos. They do all this not as an “extra”, but integrated into their learning and curriculum. I know that right now, my kids do not have the perspective to understand the unique and amazing gifts they receive as JCDS students. However, I know that they will go out into the world, prepared not only to meet its challenges, but to lead confidently with a strong Jewish identity, deep values, and significant skills, and that is quite a gift.
Orna Siegel is the mother of two JCDS students and one child attending Jewish preschool. She has been a Jewish educator for the past 15 years and is currently the Director of Admissions at JCDS.