Do you remember what it was like to sit at your desk in school, looking at the back of the head of the kid in front of you and daydreaming while the teacher droned on and on? How about cramming for a test, memorizing facts that you were reading the night before for the first time? Remember listening to a lecture about earth science when you could have been doing an experiment?
At The Binah School, a new Orthodox Jewish middle and high for girls in Sharon, MA that combines the best of contemporary, project-based education and traditional, text-driven Jewish studies, we are committed to making sure that our students never have these memories!
The American school system is based on a model that originated during the Industrial Revolution at a time when children were required to receive a basic education preparing them to become factory workers. Our educational system today still uses facets of this approach even though society has evolved so much.
Today’s global economy creates a demand for adults with problem-solving and critical thinking skills, collaborative experience and technological expertise. The traditional classroom approach of learning by rote and lecture format fails to give students the skills and experience that they need. Research demonstrates that students learn best when lessons are interactive, project-based, geared to a variety of learning styles and when they are applied to real-life problems. While educational practices are shifting, Orthodox Jewish day schools are substantially behind their public school counterparts.
The Binah School is the first Orthodox middle/high school anywhere in the U.S. to offer a comprehensive interdisciplinary, experiential curriculum throughout all classes and disciplines. Our mission is to provide a creative and religious learning environment that empowers young Jewish women to be firmly grounded in Jewish identity and Orthodox culture while developing the academic skills to think critically about the world in which they live. As participants learn how to study Jewish texts and make connections between Judaic content and academic disciplines, the program models our core value that the Torah is central to how we live our lives.
Life at The Binah School is busy right now as we wrap up our 20 week pilot program! Our amazing group of middle school age girls has bonded and we have projects in Judaic Studies, design and math that are underway. Our students had the opportunity to meet and interview award-winning author, Evelyn Krieger, after analyzing her novel and writing a play based on her characters and themes. They are now working with local singer-songwriter, Sara Leah Epstein, on Mishkan-inspired music that brings extra creativity and joy to their Torah learning.
In their service learning class, the girls have put together a multifaceted composting project which includes environmental science, researching and building a vermicompost for The Binah School and leading a curbside composting initiative for the Town of Sharon. Check out our students’ composting survey of town residents at www.surveymonkey.com/s/sharoncompostingsurvey to see what they are up to. Math lessons on statistics and data are teaching our activists-in-training how to analyze and present the data from their survey to the town’s Department of Public Works.
The Binah School was very grateful to be chosen by CJP to receive an Innovation Grant this December in support of our pilot program. In addition, I was selected by CJP’s PresenTense Fellowship program as one of the 2011 fellows, which is driving us forward as we expand into a full-scale school. Our buzzword has been connection and being a part of such an incredible group of Jewish innovators is a fantastic experience! Our amazing PresenTense coach, Benjamin Davies, has been helping make the shift from pilot program to our grand opening in 2012. His guidance has been invaluable as we navigate a whirlwind of grant applications, strategic planning and networking.
Stay tuned for further updates on our progress. You can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more. We look forward to hearing from you!