Monday, December 31, 2012

#26Acts of Kindness

On December 26, 2012, RealSchool had students sign up to perform 26 Acts of Kindness in honor of the 26 victims of Sandy Hook Elementary School. The #26Acts idea belongs to Ann Curry, a reporter for NBC who suggested it in an article she wrote for the network. The idea has gone viral, with people posting such acts as paying the orders of the next two cars in the Starbuck's line or filling up their sister-in-law's car with gas. Though we cannot erase the horror of the December 14 Newtown shooting, we can focus our efforts on being forces of good, not evil, in the world. It's surprising how transformative it is to go through the day thinking constantly about how to help others.

Here are Frisch School students signing up to perform their #26Acts:

Students received these stickers when they signed up to perform their #26Acts!

Below are some of the #26Acts students signed up to perform:

"Tell the juniors it will all work out in the end." -- #26Acts
* Leave extra money in the vending machine
* Pick up something someone dropped
* Say an extra-exuberant "hello" to Barry [the school's extra-friendly security guard!]
* Give sincere compliments to people
* Hold the door open for people
* Get cutlery for your whole table at lunch
* Offer homework help

Students becoming living embodiments of kindness

Two of RealSchool's most active members,
who were part of the team that made the day happen!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Modest Proposal from the Health and Environment team

Satire is a great tool to effect change in society. We tried it at Frisch, and Ronit came up with this modest proposal to combat obesity in America. RS's Health and Environment team wanted to share the proposal with you:

Supermarket Shopper by Duane Hanson, made in 1970
Hanson seems to have predicted the current obesity problem

A Modest Proposal
by Ronit L.

       There's no doubt to anyone with eyes that there is clearly a problem with the people around us. They are all fat. But the solution is in sight. After years of research and collaborations among food corporations and engineers from all around the world, the MTMFP (Movement to Move Fat People) has found the answer: robots. 
      When our researchers sat down to find the source of American obesity, the problem all stemmed from one thing: laziness. People take in so many calories, but they are too lazy to get moving and burn them off, so we have found a way to get those bodies in motion. Researchers have found that if people can not get to food, they can not eat it. Therefore, starting this summer, we will change the way you shop for food. While all the clothing stores will be preparing their stores for the fall, we will be remodeling supermarkets to get ready for MTMFP. 
      Billions of dollars will be going into completely redesigning supermarkets everywhere. We will replace all the shelves with our newly-designed “Run-it Rover” © system.
The “Run-it Rover” or RIR for short is a shelf on wheels. It has internal sensors that allow it to sense when a person is coming towards it. When the RIR finds someone, it takes off in the other direction. The RIR is programmed to run away from you until you have burned the number of calories in the food product the RIR is shelving. 
      The bio-engineers here are MTMFP know that not all bodies are created equal. In order to accommodate people of all shapes and sizes, all the tiles in food establishments will be replaced by scales. Additionally, laser scanners will line the walls to gauge people’s height. This way when a person steps close to a RIR, the RIR receives a message from the scale and the lasers, telling it how much the person weighs and their BMI. This will allow the RIR to know how far it has to run. If a person is underweight, the RIR will remain still and allow them to take their food with almost no calorie loss. But if the RIR see the person is severely overweight, the RIR will make them run extra hard. 
      With this new technology comes the need for space. With everyone running to get their groceries, there will be a need to expand the aisles to reduce collisions. This space will be provided by converting hospital buildings into supermarkets. Doing so will be safe because once people are no longer fat, obesity-related illnesses will decrease dramatically, thereby eliminating the need for an abundance of hospitals. 
      For all you mothers out there who are thinking, How will I get food for my children? Don’t worry, we have the answer. When a child is born, he or she will receive a food card. This food card has a unique bar code, specialized to that child. The food card will be programmed by your doctor. The doctor will give the child a certain calorie count for the day, and when you are shopping, you will be able to flash the food card at the RIR, and the RIR will deliver the food to you, for no calories!
      The MTMFP has already built prototypes of this model in cities in the midwest and the results have been phenomenal. One woman reported that she lost fifty pounds within a month of the RIR’s being in her store. She commented,“This system works great. If you do not work, you do not eat.” She noted that when she first encountered the RIR, it was difficult and time- consuming to work out to get her food, but now the RIR barely has to run from her. “It was a great self-confidence booster knowing that the RIR stopped running,” said her husband in agreement. Pediatric offices are also ecstatic about the program. Dr. Mark Smith, an expert in child obesity in Des Moines, Iowa, said, “Not only is the RIR great at keeping kids eating the rights amounts of foods, so they avoid running into problems later in life, it also ensures that the children are always coming in for appointments to change their calorie count. I’m now able to closely monitor all my patients’ weights.”
      So, shoppers, get ready for a whole new kind of shopping experience. We, as Americans, will no longer stand by as our countrymen get fat. Instead, we will lead them on a bright path to a better future where everyone can be healthy and thin.

*This ad is sponsored by the World Hunger movement. Donate today and be part of the movement that will end hunger across the globe.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Update from RS Meeting

RealSchool members had a lot to do as we gathered for the first time since Chanukah:

Religious Identity and Video Production

The Religious Identity and Video Production teams met to discuss the content of the 2-3-minute video they plan to film about how to make prayer more meaningful for students. As RS members brainstormed ideas for the video, Marni came up with a great tagline for the Religious Identity team in general: 

Turning Practice Into Purpose

We love it, Marni! Thanks!

Religious Identity is also gearing up for its next discussion on prayer, which will be on December 26 and will cover Tefillah in Talmud. Since we began the discussion series with a look at how prayer appears in Tanakh, we thought one next logical step would be seeing how prayer is addressed in the Talmud. Frisch has agreed to allow RealSchool to host a minyan on the days that we run a discussion group, so we'll do so that morning. Penina came up with a headline for the flyer we'll post to advertise the minyan:

Be the minyan you want to see in the world.

Great stuff, Penina. Thanks go out to you, too!

Karen, who heads Graphic Design, is going to make us a logo for with the line, so we'll be able to use the logo every time we run the minyan.

Last week many of RealSchool's Religious Identity members led discussions with the freshmen about where to draw the line between Judaism and the secular world. The discussion was part of an integration program at Frisch called Greek Week. For more information about Greek Week, see Greek Week at Frisch: Cougars Draw the Line. The Religious Identity team liked the way the discussion went and wants to have more of them with the freshmen. Therefore, what came out of tonight's meeting is a three-pronged approach to creating more mindfulness in student religious practice:

1) Videos, made for and by students, about the search for religious meaning
2) Additional discussions about prayer and a RealSchool minyan on the day of the discussions
3) Continued informal discussions with the freshmen, led by RealSchool: Religious Identity members

Graphic Design and Health and Environment

Religious Identity and Video Production weren't the only teams that got things done tonight. Graphic Design also laid out an action plan for the next few weeks, so we can realize our goal of having student-made logos for each of our RS teams. Health and Environment team continued work on the green cookbook we plan to make, although we're rethinking whether we want a formal cookbook or an app/website that we update, so we have a virtual recipe folder. Health and Environment team members also decided they want to focus on giving healthy makeovers to unhealthy recipes. Whatever else we decide on, one thing is clear: a recipe for kale chips is a must!

Soon you'll be able to make these kale chips yourself,
thanks to RealSchool's Health and Environment team and
Frisch's Environmental Club
Thanks to everyone who attended tonight. We got a lot done and also managed to get in some ad hoc discussions of one of our favorite topics at RS: education reform.

Finance and Fashion

Next on the to-do list:

Finance Team events
The Frisch Fashion Show, which we'll plan this year with the school's dance team

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Getting to God: Religious Identity Explores Prayer

This past week, on Wednesday, November 28, RealSchool's Religious Identity team began the first of a series of discussions about building a relationship with God. The year-long discussions series will be moderated by students and will explore different ways of grasping God. The first discussion, which was moderated by Akiva Mattenson, Penina Warburg and Solomon Wiener, was about Tanakh attitudes towards prayer. The moderators found different verses from Torah, Prophets and Writings and used them as jumping off points for students to explore various ways Tanakh approaches prayer.

The approximately fifteen students who took part in the discussion spent part of the time analyzing three verbs the Torah uses that might shed light on what is meant by prayer:

The above whiteboard notes illustrate some of the key points of the discourse: 

Is prayer . . . 
1) an encounter? If it is an encounter, does it happen by accident, fate, or does one prepare for it?
2) a two-way conversation?
3) a moment to stand and allow the worshiper to express his thoughts?

An interesting debate that emerged from the discussion is whether prayer IS an encounter with God OR prepares us to HAVE an encounter with Him.

Here is one student's thoughts from the evening:

When talking about prayer, one is faced with the question of whether it is an encounter, a conversation or an active stand with or towards God. An encounter is when one happens upon someone else. This is a very casual and passive way to think of prayer. A conversation is when two people talk to one another. This is a two-way street. God and the person praying must actively talk back and forth. An active stand is when one moves and it takes effort for one to pray. I think prayer is a conversation, because as Yaakov [Jacob] said [loose paraphrase here of Genesis 28:20], "If God does stuff for me, I will do stuff for God." -- Sammy ('15)

And here's a timely blog post by Eddie Maza reminding us why talking about prayer is so important:

Friday, November 16, 2012

Computers in Class

Here are the top eleven activities students are using their computers for in class (And guess what? Taking notes didn't make it onto the list!)

11. Fantasy football
10. Looking up ESPN/NFL/NBA scores
9. Games
8. Facebook/Twitter
7. Shopping
6. E-Mail
5. Ichat/messaging
4. Movies with subtitles
3. Other school work
2. Youtube

And the number one answer -- because it utilizes two technologies! -- is

1. Hiding a phone behind the computer to text

Occupy Standardized Testing!

A RealSchool-like project in AP English Language has Oriel, a junior at The Frisch School, researching standardized testing. The impetus for the research topic was Oriel's SAT prep; Oriel says the test has nothing to do with real life or any skills he may or may not have. Here are Oriel's preliminary thoughts on standardized testing:

In recent years, standardized testing has moved to the forefront of discussions concerning the American educational system.  While standardized testing does have its merits, it is criticized by many experts to be an ineffective and unfair way of determining the breadth of a student’s knowledge.   Standardized testing, dating back to the 1920’s, has been the most efficient way for colleges and other groups to objectively rank students based on their knowledge, allowing colleges to sift through hundreds of college applications at the blink of an eye in order to focus primarily on those with the higher test scores.  While standardized testing is an efficient way of categorizing students and processing college applications, standardized testing is very limited in scope: it can only determine a given student’s knowledge in specific areas (and even this it cannot truly do).  Standardized testing steals students’ identities and replaces them with scores.  Standardized testing does not measure a student’s creativity, imagination, and thoughtfulness; on the contrary, these values, which are essential to life in “the real world,” are being destroyed by standardized testing.  Standardized testing believes that there is only one right answer to a given problem – creativity has no place in the realm of standardized testing.  Although standardized testing achieves much in terms of efficiency in evaluating students, its flaws outweigh the good it effects.  Standardized testing has been a way to evaluate student performance over the past 90 years, but a change in the system is clearly necessary.

Like Occupy Standardized Testing on Facebook:

Monday, November 12, 2012

What's New in Religious Identity and The Arts

The Religious Identity team has decided on a topic for a series of discussions it wants to have this year about Judaism. The topic is -- drumroll, please! -- Relationship with God, and members of the Religious Identity team will moderate discussions about different approaches Judaism takes to building a relationship with the Creator. Those different approaches include:

* Prayer
* Philosophy
* The Torah
* The Halakha, the Jewish legal system

The first discussion will take place on November 28, 2012 and will be on Prayer!

Meanwhile, as usual, The Arts is supporting Religious Identity's endeavors. The team is going to the Jewish Museum this Sunday, November 18, to see an exhibit on Hebrew illuminated manuscripts from the Bodleian Library collection. That exhibit will kick off a year-long study of Hebrew illuminated manuscripts that will result in an exhibit at RealSchool's Second Annual Yom Iyun, Day of Learning,which we call Sikhot b'Emunah, Discussions in Faith.

While the Religious Identity team will get you ready for the Festival of Lights by enlightening you about Prayer, The Arts team is using the following lecture on Chanukah by Menachem Leibtag as a jumping off point for an exhibit that will hopefully enhance your holiday:

Lecture on Chanukah by Rabbi Menachem Leibtag

Friday, October 26, 2012

Even More 5 1/2 Entrepreneurship Facts

David Solomon has this round of 5 1/2 facts from RS: Social Entrepreneurship:

Columbus Circle from Time Warner Center
1. The company Applied Immune Technologies is trying to create antibodies that will kill malignant cells.

2. The startup companies only need a couple of million dollars at most to start their companies.

3. USIBC [US-Israel Business Council] started the WE Summit to give six brilliant Israeli female entrepreneurs the chance to raise start-up funds their companies.

4. BrandsForce is an innovative social media marketing platform. Here people can recruit customers to support their brands.

5. Watching the networking before the program gave me a better understanding of what it takes to make connections and get customers. Everyone was talking to each other about their respective businesses.

5 1/2. The Time Warner building was really cool because it was very technologically advanced and ornamented with interesting flashing light figures that stood out to me.

5 1/2 More Entrepreneurship Facts

Here are Yisroel Quint's 5 1/2 facts from the Women Entrepreneur's Summit on Monday, October 22, 2012:

Five and a half things I learned were:

1. "Orville Wright didn't have a flying license": You don't need to be an expert to have a genius idea.

2. You need to be able to sell your product just as much as you can create the product.

3. "There's nothing new under the sun": Most of the ideas presented at the conference had lots of competition and weren't anything revolutionary, but small innovation makes them worthwhile.

4. It's important to acknowledge an imperfect idea and be able to take constructive criticism because only having "yes men" around you will cause stagnancy.

5. Money will be lost before it's gained. Most of the people, when presenting, showed losses for the first couple of years.

5.5. You don't want to present last at a long conference because most people will be itching to get out of the door.

Yisroel Quint

Social Entrepreneurship goes to the WE Summit!

The Time Warner Building
RealSchool: Social Entrepreneurship got off to a great start this past week, on Monday, October 22, when three members of RS, Eddie Maza, Yisroel Quint and David Solomon, attended a Women's Entrepreneurship Conference that David's father Eddie Solomon invited them to join. The summit, which took place in NYC at the Time Warner Center, was run by the U.S-Israel Business Council and featured presentations from six promising female-led start-ups. The conference also linked investors and executives, giving them the chance to explore investment opportunities and learn about the latest trends dominating the industry.

Here's some information about the summit:

USI Women Entrepreneurship Summit

We asked Eddie, Yis and David to send us 5 1/2 facts they learned from the summit. We'll go in alphabetical order and share those facts with you throughout the day:

Eddie Maza:

1) For the past ten years, there has been no increase in the number of start-ups founded by women (still 5%) [Ed. note: And the three members of RS who attended the women's conference were all male!].

2) It is very important to be able to show how your product/service is unique.

3) It is important to identify a specific niche in which your product will be bought.

4) Investors are not interested in the actual product, only the business plan. When presenting your idea, focus on the business plan. Investors only want to know they'll make money!

5) A main goal of many start-up companies is to be bought by a larger company. The business world will applaud you if you manage that!

1/2 fact: The view from the tenth-floor cafe of the Time Warner building is fantastic!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Food Day, October 24, 2012

Today is Food Day, a nationwide movement to promote healthy, affordable, sustainable and fair food. Frisch’s Environmental Club and RealSchool's Health and Environment team decided to bring Food Day to Frisch. We all know that as Jews, food plays a major role in our lives. We just finished celebrating the Chagim [holidays] where all we seemed to do is eat. If you ask a non-Jew about what makes Jews different, dietary restrictions are usually high on the list. Not only do we have many laws about kashruth, we also have to say a berakha [blessing] before everything that goes into our mouths. We understand that kashruth keeps us separate and holy, and berakhot create in us an “attitude of gratitude.”

But why should Food Day -- a movement about healthy, affordable and sustainable food -- be important to our religious lives? Rambam in Hilchot Deot suggests one answer: “Since maintaining a healthy and sound body is among the ways of G-d, for one cannot understand or have any knowledge of the Creator if he is ill, therefore, one must avoid that which harms the body and accustom oneself to that which is healthy and helps the body become stronger.”

Our bodies are a gift from G-d and they are meant for the purpose of serving G-d. Therefore, it is our obligation to take good care of our bodies and to make sure that what we put into our bodies is good for us.

Not only do we have an obligation to keep our bodies healthy. Judaism also obligates us to make sure that we behave in a way that’s beneficial for the world. Two weeks ago we read Parashat Bereishit, where we recognize God as Creator and all of his creation as GOOD. We have an obligation therefore to keep God’s world in a good state, as God intended, and not to be wasteful of His works.

The Halakha [Jewish law], in fact, prohibits wasting. We are told not to waste resources; when we do, we violate the commandment of Bal Tashit [do not waste].
We are obligated to think about the ethics of how we obtain our food; if we are wasteful in how we make and consume our food, then we are being wasteful of the earth, of God’s creation. 

Join the Environmental Club and RealSchool today in celebrating Food Day. We’ll be planting herbs during periods 6-7 and watching Food, Inc. after school tonight. The movie is about the ethics of food production. We hope today inspires you to be more aware of the kind of food you eat and to make healthier decisions for yourselves and our planet.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Balance in a Judaic Studies Classroom

At the last RealSchool meeting, on Tuesday, October 16, two members of the Religious Identity team were discussing some of the challenges students face in a Judaic Studies classroom. The two students were aware that teachers had to cover a syllabus and make sure students came away from a school year with a basic knowledge of certain books of the Torah, let's say, or key topics in a Talmudic tractate. However, the students expressed frustration that sometimes the teacher would acknowledge that a good and important theological question might go unanswered because the class needed to finish course material. This led the two RealSchool members to ask what is most important in a Judaic Studies classroom: 1) answering key theological questions that a) only some students may have or b) all students in the class have or 2) covering course material so a school knows that by the time its students graduate, the students have knowledge of the central texts of our heritage.

The students felt that the discussion about whether to cover course material or troubling theological issues was one that was unique to a Judaic Studies classroom. The General Studies classroom may need to cover certain course material in order to fulfill state requirements and/or to prepare students for an AP or SAT II exam. However, a Judaic Studies class feels no such pressure. Further, the students felt that the goal of a Judaic Studies classroom is not only to create literacy for students in the texts of our heritage, but also to produce Jews who have clear theologies and ones that are meaningful to them. Therefore, the students wondered if knowledge of texts should take a back seat at times to ideas that trouble students theologically.

What is the balance a Judaic Studies teacher should strike between covering material and making sure students are well thought out theologically?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

First RealSchool meeting of the school year!

RealSchool at Frisch's Club Fair

After reaching 101 Likes on Facebook on Monday and then presenting at yesterday's Club Fair at Frisch, RealSchool held its first meeting last night, when old RS members got to reunite -- two members aren't in the school anymore but are returning to work on the club's projects -- and new ones got to see the craziness that sometimes passes for a RS meeting. Amid the chatter and donuts, we did manage to thank Penina Warburg for being such an amazing social media director, see the work Ari Mendelow has done on the RS website, establish that all the teams need to complete a mission statement and fill out note cards about which teams each member wants to join, so we can set up a calendar for meetings.

RealSchool's home page; the website was designed by Ari Mendelow

The teams page of the RS website

Some of the teams for the new school year remain the same:

App Making
The Arts, with Fashion
Marketing and Advertising
Religious Identity
Web Design

Some of the teams have been modified:

Social Entrepreneurship has become Social Action and Entrepreneurship
Nutrition has become Health and Environment and will be teaming up with Mrs. Mantell's Environment Club

And some of the teams are new:

Welcome Video Production and Graphic Design, which, among other things, will be helping RS implement and record our events!

Helping members decide what teams they want to join
Welcome back to old RS-ers and welcome to the new RS members! We're looking forward to another great year for the club!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Launching RealSchool

RealSchool is all about what Sir Ken Robinson calls "changing education paradigms" (of course that video is below; it's a must-see for any education reformer), but we also model education reform by having students engage in experiential, self-directed learning.

If you're looking to initiate reform in your school or to empower students by having them try inquiry-based learning or other innovative pedagogical modalities, here is a list of videos to inspire you. They are the ones that launched RealSchool!

Top-ten lists usually go in descending order, but we're going to lay out for you our first year of RealSchool and show you, in order, the videos that our students watched to help them understand the educational experiment they were undertaking:

1) The first way to comprehend how badly education needs to be disrupted and how creativity-crushing certain aspects of the current school system are today, you MUST watch the following RSA Animate video narrated by Sir Ken Robinson.

2) The video was great, wasn't it? Sir Ken gave a TED Talk too. Want to watch that? Why not?! We did. It's entitled, "Do Schools Kill Creativity?" We're trying to change the answer to a resounding "No."

3) Students immediately understood what Sir Ken was getting at in his talks, so much so that one student sent us a link to the next two videos, both of which became our go-to films when we wanted to explain that children are naturally curious and will want to learn when they feel motivated and excited about what they're discovering. Interestingly, you will not see students cramming for AP exams, making endless flashcards, or furiously filling in multiple choice questions at any point in these videos.

The first video is Sugata Mitra's TED Talk about the power of self-directed learning:

4) The second video that proves self-directed learning is something any self-respecting education reformer should be including in the classroom features Thomas Suarez, a sixth grader who learned how to make (and sell!) apps on his own. Resist the temptation to turn students into money-makers, but do focus on the power of learning by doing, another concept that powers RealSchool.

5) John Hunter is all over the concept of learning by doing, experiential learning, inquiry-based learning, interactive learning, project-based learning, whole-person learning. Yes, there are a lot of fancy and not-so-fancy names for the pedagogical concept that students want to learn as they did in kindergarten: not by sitting at desks, but by mucking about in the mud, making mistakes (sometimes gargantuan ones) and collaborating with others.

Collaboration is another one of the non-negotiable aspects of RealSchool: students must work together and, in doing so, they learn to appreciate and value the qualities that their classmates possess. RS students also discover that each student's unique talents contribute something valuable to the larger group that then enables the group to execute its projects successfully.

6) Collaboration and peer-based learning are also employed in RealSchool to connect students to the larger world. The community building in which RealSchool engages leads naturally to students' seeing how they can use their skills and talents to benefit the larger world. We posted the following ViewChange video on our Facebook page to emphasize RealSchool's commitment to helping the world:

7) The ViewChange video shows the importance of interdisciplinary studies in education, since innovative solutions to the world's problems are coming from ideas that combine different sectors and skills. The Frisch School, where RealSchool is based, focuses heavily on interdisciplinary studies, and the following video illustrates how exciting integrated studies can be:

8) RS is divided into different teams that then interact and work with each other to complete different projects and events. Sometimes the teams share ideas that fire them up with the larger RS group. Here's an example of a video the Finance team posted on the Facebook page in order to show how important and life-changing proper financial education can be. RS also values the way the school in the video integrated financial education into its curriculum and made learning math relevant to the real world:

9) RS is in awe of the video production class featured in the following short film, and we want to build an academic program as rich and connected to the community as the video production class is:

10) Want a sneak peek at how RealSchool is launching the 2012-13 school year? We're going to show the video "Where Good Ideas Come From." In it, Steven Johnson explores a notion RealSchool believes in deeply: that the smartest person in the room is the room.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Others with RealSchool's Philosophy

We've been busy this summer investigating who else out there share's RealSchool's philosophies, and unsurprisingly there are tons of people and schools who do. Here is a collection of some cool and interesting ideas in education:

Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey created the following chart, comparing personalized, differentiated and individualized learning. RealSchool, of course, is all about Personalized Learning:

In fact, Ms. Bray is a Creative Learning Strategist. Here are some of her thoughts on 21st-century learning:

I have an idea. Let’s flip learning. Your students have been 21st century learners most of their lives. They know how to use all of the technology. If they don’t, they figure it out. Why not make them more responsible for their learning? What if…
  • your students create the videos about the content to flip the classroom. 
  • involve your students in lesson design. Be partners in unpacking the standards and designing activities. Children today are very resilient and smart if we give them the chance. Check out this post from Kathleen McClaskey and myself on Personal Learner Profiles and the Common Core.
  • See Think WonderAsk your students to brainstorm and prioritize questions about the topic. This post on Making Just One Change where I interviewed Sara Armstrong helped me understand the importance of inquiry.  Michael Wesch encourages his university students to wonder. 
  • Imagine your students building lessons with you as partners in learning.

Dave Truss, an educator in Canada, is busy creating a new school built on inquiry-based learning:

Mr. Truss has these thoughts to share on his terrific blog:

1. Time- Pro-D, preparation, planning & play – CSS [his school in Canada] has significantly more prep & planning time than most public schools could ever afford, but I do think we have to start being creative about the amount of time teachers spend in front of students vs how much time they spend collaborating and learning… after all, we are just as much in the learning business as we are the teaching business.

2. Co-teaching & collaboration opportunities 
- I think this is where we can start to get really creative in two ways: First, we need to get two teachers in the same room, including doubling up the classes and having 50-60 students in a larger room, or in learning commons. Secondly, blended learning models could mean that at times, one teacher has 2 classes that are using a technology guided program or activity, freeing up extra time for other teachers to meet. It is ironic, and unfortunate, that tighter class size limits are factoring into play in BC right when blended learning is going to push the envelope of continuous supervision of students in set classes.

3. Models & Mentorship
 - We actually have working models like the Calgary Science School to examine. At CSS new teachers are told not to plan anything until they meet their colleagues. New teachers aren’t handed the toughest positions, and they aren’t handed packages of work or set programs to teach. As Stephen Heppell says, “…you get ideas from colleagues, and from other schools, and… when your experience touches someone else’s experience”.


Sunday, July 8, 2012

What is RealSchool?

This blog is about the RealSchool experience. Here, we will update you on the progress of the RealSchool teams. What is Real School, you ask? RealSchool aims to reform education by piquing students’ interests in a variety of different fields that they may not be able to study in a traditional classroom. In fact, RealSchool is nothing like a traditional classroom. Students decide on the material they’ll be studying; their teacher serves only as a facilitator but not as an expert in the field of study; and all work is project-based and collaborative. RealSchool’s faculty advisor is Mrs. Tikvah Wiener, who was inspired by Ken Robinson’s revolutionary video about reforming education. Check out the video here:

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Hallways of Learning

Turning the school hallways into a place of learning:

The last event of the year for RealSchool was Detox for the Decalogue:

Students signed up for No Sugar Drinks Day, agreeing to drink only water
on the day we focused on physical health

Thanks to M and C Vending for donating the water bottles for No Sugar Drinks Day!

Students could paint in the relaxing, de-stressing style of Jackson Pollack
on the day we focused on alleviating mental strain

Students got to daven at a special minyan for the day we focused on spiritual health,
but then also signed up to do mitzvoth, which we proudly posted on our Har Sinai.
We were therefore able to focus on mitzvoth bein adam l'makom and bein adam l'chavero
Detox for the Decalogue, a three-day preparation for Shavuot run by RealSchool, began on Wednesday, May 23 with a focus on physical health. The school's vending machine company, M and C Vending, donated 400 bottles of water, so we could offer bottled water to those students signing up for our No Sugar Drinks day. The Natural Spot in Teaneck donated a whey protein drink mix, which we raffled off, and RealSchool members also posted myths and facts about physical health throughout the school. Thursday's focus was on mental health. Freshman Ronit Langer started the day off with a dvar Torah after davening about the mental health benefits of prayer. Students were offered opportunities to visit a yoga/meditation room and a lounge that had been converted into a playroom, complete with hula hoops, pumped up music and brain teasers and other puzzles. Students could also de-stress with a Jackson Pollack-like painting session and learn fun facts about the mind that we posted for the day.

On Friday, May 25, a day focused on the soul, students could participate in a Decalogue Davening, a special minyan that began with a discussion about why tefillah is important. "PrayPals" then visited classrooms, polling students about what is inspiring about Frisch tefillah and what should be improved. The focus on tefillahcovered mitzvoth bein adam l'makom. For mitzvoth bein adam l'chavero, RealSchool made a Har Sinai and had students write a nice thing they would do for someone else over the course of the weekend. We hope Detox for the Decalogue: Body, Mind, Soul got the Frisch community ready for Shavuot, the holiday on which we received the Torah!

Following is a found poem made from the student survey responses about the inspiring nature of tefillah:

I like davening
In silence
And at my own

Davening is peaceful

And gives me time
To reflect on my
Day and what
I've done.

Tefillah is important
To me
When I'm down
Or without hope,
It gives me
And a purpose
In life.

I like having a set
To communicate with
It forces me
To continually refresh
The relationship.

I like the personal
Aspect of tefillah,
Not only reading
The words
But making them
My own.

Tefillah gives
Me the feeling
That I always
Have someone
To lean on.

It gives me
A chance to pour
Out my feelings to Someone
And to thank Him
For everything
I have.

It makes me
Feel like God is listening.

Images from the event:

Detox for the Decalogue logo

Detox for the Decalogue: One of the posters for Physical Health

Detox for the Decalogue: One of the posters for Mental Health

Detox for the Decalogue: One of the posters for Spiritual Health

Spiritual Health

Thanks again to our sponsors:
M and C Vending  201-342-8363
The Natural Spot 1440 Queen Anne Road, Teaneck, NJ  201-862-1055