When Amy Gold began as head of school at Epstein Hillel School in Marblehead, she brought with her a vision for how technology could be used to enhance teaching and learning. Now in the seventh year of her tenure, her teachers are not only accustomed to, but fully embrace, using technology to help students learn, teach one another and demonstrate their understanding and creativity. Further, she has ensured that Hebrew and Judaic studies are also taught with an innovative approach that incorporates new technology and out-of-the-box thinking. At EHS, it is not uncommon for Hebrew and Jewish studies to be a student’s favorite part of the day.
Because talking, reading, writing and processing are all necessary for learning, every classroom at EHS has a Smartboard that enhances the breadth of instructional tools available to the teachers. Additionally, iPads are used as a standard tool for classroom instruction by teachers, as well as by students to create, document and demonstrate their learning through multiple modalities.
For example, students have created websites and iMovies as culminating projects for both social studies and Hebrew units to show what they have learned. Lower elementary students are introduced to technology through Smartboard math and reading games and individualized support through various software programs such as RazzKids and DreamBox Learning. Teachers also incorporate apps, such as Scratch Jr, to learn computer programming, and ToonTastic, which teaches students to animate and narrate stories. The green screen area in the library is always busy with students acting, filming and editing videos they have created in English and Hebrew.
With the opening of the Sulman Innovation Center in the spring of 2020, a space unlike anything else on the North Shore, EHS students have been given an unparalleled exposure to the ability to integrate the library, STEM lab and art studio into a transformative learning space. A core value of the Innovation Center is that learning by doing exposes students to a realistic context that learning by listening cannot replicate. EHS students are given the opportunity to be able to analyze, create, discover, explore, investigate, document and present, which has proven to be an integral part of their learning across all the academic disciplines. A beautiful, state-of-the-art facility, the Innovation Center serves not only as a project-based learning space, but also provides the perfect backdrop for community events, engineering design and STEM day, electives like tinkering and robotics, and never ceases to amaze anyone who visits the school.
All children learn differently. Some are visual learners, while others are auditory or hands-on/kinesthetic learners. Rivka Pe’eri, Hebrew and Jewish studies teacher, believes that a disengaged student will not be a successful student. As such, she incorporates technology into her lessons at every turn; she teaches the old by using the new. Whether she is adapting American board games into Hebrew or creating Smartboard games to review Torah texts, she, along with all the teachers at EHS, seamlessly melds tradition with new technology.
For example, third grade teacher and STEM coordinator Lea Winkler taught students to program Kibo robots to move in the same direction of a lulav as part of their Sukkot curriculum. This year, Jewish studies teacher Miri Sharon worked with the fifth and sixth graders during Hanukkah to explore the menorah at a deeper level than ever before. Students first looked in the Torah for instructions on how Moses was told to create seven branches, using specific colors, materials and decorations. Using Tinkercad, a 3-D design application on their iPads, they each designed their own menorahs based upon their personal interpretation of the text, which they then printed as 3-D models.
These projects, and many others, speak to the outstanding and unique curriculum at EHS. When asked about what makes their school so special, students will tell you, “EHS teachers make learning fun.” The creativity, passion and ability to seamlessly integrate technology by the faculty at EHS ensures that students love to learn and come to school excited for all their subjects, old and new.
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