Sunday, March 31, 2013

Getting Started in Self-Directed Learning

Know the problems and benefits of self-directed learning
before you embark on the process

Introduction to 21st-Century Skills

In talking with different educators and lay people about the 21st-century skills new educational methods are interested in honing, we've heard legitimate and important concerns about the fact that these new approaches are largely untested and that traditional practices have been successful in educating students, so why change them?

One of RealSchool's interests lies in giving students a voice in their classrooms, in their curricula and in the policies that shape the schools they attend. One of the ways RealSchool, which has primarily been an extra-curricular activity, has been able to empower students is by having them choose the teams and projects they want to join. Another way, in a course that was partially "RealSchool-ed," was by having seniors choose a topic they researched and blogged about all year. That project, called Frisch L.E.A.D.s (Learning. Exploring. Analyzing. Designing.) is culminating now in a term paper and/or multi-media project where students organize and present what they have learned. Herehere and here are posts about the components of the LEADs project.

Different Forms of Self-Directed Learning

Student Choice in Assessment 

Our esteemed colleague, Rabbi Tzvi Pittinsky, the TechRav, has recently posted his concerns about self-directed learning, and we'd like to address his thoughtful points. Rabbi Pittinsky notes:

As a teacher in my own classroom, I find that while I want to allow my students to express themselves utilizing their talents and creativity, I also have a very strong idea of a curriculum that I wish to cover. I am especially proud of projects where I can maximize the two.

What Rabbi Pittinsky describes here is, to our mind, a form of self-directed learning. Allowing students to use their own talents and creativity in a class where the teacher is guiding the curriculum strongly is still a way to give students more voice and choice in their classes. Students are going to have higher levels of engagement if they feel more invested in the learning, either by choosing what they learn or, in this case, how they are assessed. 

Rabbi Pittinsky points to Rabbi Aaron Ross' meaningful and rich PBL (project-based learning) kashruth assignment as another way to empower students in the classroom, while still having the teacher maintain a high level of structure and organization in the curriculum. 

Student Choice in Project and Assessment

The Frisch LEADs project allows more student freedom than what Rabbi Pittinsky and Rabbi Ross have described in their work. For Frisch LEADs, students were allowed to choose the topic they wanted to research and then decide to some extent on how they would present their information. While all students had to complete at least a 10-12-page term paper, in order to demonstrate mastery of writing and depth of research, some students are choosing to do a long, 25-page research paper and no multi-media project, while others are choosing to leave their paper at 10-12 pages and complete projects such as: 

* a meal for the class
* a wiki
* an anti-bullying program for the freshmen
* a survey of religious development for the seniors and juniors
* art projects and an art exhibit

Though Frisch LEADs allows students choice in what they learn and how they are assessed, there is still structure in the project and teachers are facilitating and overseeing the students' learning. The Frisch LEADs projects did not take up an entire syllabus, however. The project was part of an AP English Literature course, during which students learned literature chosen by their teachers. What about classes that are even more self-directed and have what we would call self-organizing curricula, that is, entire curriculums based on what students want to learn and not on what teachers feel they need to teach?

Rabbi Pittinsky expresses a natural opinion:

I think that the most important opportunities for pure self-directed learning come in the area of extra-curricular activities. If students have an idea for a new club or publication, we must support them in every way possible. But in the classroom, kids crave clear direction from the teacher. This can come in many forms. Frontal teaching does not have to take up the bulk of this learning. But almost everything should be teacher-directed even those times when we allow our students to take control and teach the lesson.

Students Choose What and How They Learn

RS's App Making and Social Entrepreneurship teams
decide what's going to be in an app and how they're going to market it

RealSchool got started because students wanted more choice in what they learned and chose, after school in the club, to make apps, websites and videos; care for the environment and learn about their physical health; ask the Big Questions about religion that they didn't have time in class to ask; make fashion shows and art exhibits; and more. But why shouldn't students be able to do those things in a class? Why should a student sit through a course he/she isn't interested in when another one, just as vital to a student's development, could be offered? In fact, the English Department at Frisch will be offering Digital Media next year for students interested in web design, photoshop and other forms of digital expression. 

AP Environment is given at many schools (don't get us started on standardized testing, but we mention the course to show that it has legitimacy in mainstream venues); why not create one that's more project-based and creates relevance in the real world? One of the things we do at RealSchool is intertwine the interests of our different teams, to show students how their individual talents and interests can be used to serve a larger good. So for this year's Fashion Show, entitled Who's the Fairest of Them All?, we've focused on fair food and trade practices and are raising money to end slavery in the world. 

Jamie, a member of many RS teams, including Graphic Design,
is working on a logo for the Health and Environment team

The Health and Environment team is busy finding out about ethical trade practices in the food industry, and we've been debating whether kashruth certifications should show that a food has been created in an ethical manner. For example, does an owner of a kosher restaurant treat his workers well? One of our students has shared with us information about Uri L'Zedek, a Jewish Social Action organization, and its Tav HaYosher, a seal certifying a kosher restaurant has created a just environment. We've tied the interests of fashion and health, therefore, not only to each other, but also to a larger question students have about their religion, which is how can it be relevant in today's world?

All Jewish day schools are obviously very values-based, so we feel engaging students in this kind of whole-person learning is crucial, but what student, anywhere, wouldn't find meaning in whole-person learning? All humans want to feel there is value in what they learn and do. In fact, take a look at this article that Jeff Kiderman at AJE sent us:

All High School Courses Should Be Elective

Pretty radical title, but don't dismiss the idea out of hand. At least, begin discussion in your schools -- with parents, students (especially students!), teachers, administrators and board members -- about what students are gaining from their course work and what they'd like to see change. Students buy into the idea of RealSchool pretty quickly. They love the idea that they can choose what they want to learn; teachers need to feel they're in control and that chaos will not break out if students are in a learning lab environment as opposed to a classroom with a row of desks. We get that. Let's help each other get over that, though. There are a lot of steps we can take to make students more empowered and more engaged in their learning.

The many different ways to employ self-directed learning
Just a few days after we first wrote this post, we found this blog post about connecting learning, which is the tying of student passions into the classroom. The post extols the idea of appealing to students' interests, ones normally left for extra-curricular activities, by bringing them into the classroom setting.

Additional Resources on Giving Students Choice

Check out the Science Leadership Academy and its take on curriculum. We love this school and cannot wait to hear from Chris Lehman, its principal and a keynote speaker at EdJewCon. Check out Chris Lehman's blog for more on this visionary educator.

Here's a post from a website we love: Including Student Voice from Edutopia.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Passover Poems: The Haggadah and Huck Finn

Found Poems

If you're looking for something interesting to recite at this year's Seder, consider the following student-made found poems on freedom and racism, written as part of a culminating project on racism in America. Here are the students working on the project:

The first poem is an amalgamation of texts from the Haggadah and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn:

This year slaves
   Next year free men
There ain't nothing in the world so good
You feel mighty free and easy and comfortable
        We cried out to God
God heard our voice and he saw our suffering
In every generation they rise against us and seek our destruction
Nobody else could come a-hunting after me
   Out of the chains in no time
   There ain't no place for a n-----
         Baruckh atah Hashem Ga'al Yisrael
         I knowed I was alright now

The second poem is from the civil rights chapter of American history textbook, American History: A Survey by Alan Brinkley:

Loss of Innocence

he had collapsed
romantic vision snapped
the stable cords had once bound
basic principles
and existing terms

champions of the new
-- already inferior --
concept of slavery
they were the slaveowners
the fire eaters

slavery's unthreatening presence
had risen to such a point
that it was threatened
not even backed by gold or silver
certainly not by morality
only mortality

Try your hand at creating your own found poem out of just the haggadah or the haggadah and another inspirational source. 

Feel free to post your found poem in the comments section!

The Schechter Haggadah

We've been enjoying the truly remarkable The Schechter Haggadah. Read a review of it here.

Enjoy this time of freedom and redemption.
Have a happy Pesach!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

David Kelley's Design Thinking at IDEO and Stanford

IDEO's offices. Who wouldn't want to work in this kind of environment?

Design Thinking at IDEO

David Kelley is the founder of IDEO, one of the most creative companies around today. Kelley is a pioneer of Design Thinking, something we've been talking about recently on Twitter with our pals on #jedchat and #JDSMediaLab, and his company has been employing Design Thinking for the last 20 years. In fact, IDEO is responsible for such inventions as the first mouse for Apple and the standing toothpaste container.

The key values at IDEO are collaboration, "anti-disciplinary" thinking, and, as Kelley puts it, "empathy for the consumer." Groups comprised of thinkers from diverse backgrounds -- computer science, design, journalism, business, etc. -- gather and think about ways to make products that show a true understanding of how consumers use the products they buy and/or interact with. Kelley believes strongly that the way to improve and create products is to observe consumers as they use them. By noticing when a consumer is having a less-than-perfect experience as he utilizes a product, IDEO employees gain knowledge about what to improve or create. See some of IDEO's products here.

The Stanford

Kelley founded the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford, where Stanford students from -- you guessed it -- all different backgrounds and majors can gather and learn about Design Thinking. Steve Jobs, one of IDEO's first and most loyal customers and a good friend of Kelley's, pooh-poohed the idea of Kelley's issuing a degree from something as flighty as a design program, but Jobs was a passionate believer in Kelley and was excited by the idea that Kelley would be teaching Design Thinking to people who were pursuing careers in a variety of fields and who would therefore apply the thinking to those diverse areas. 

If you look at the website for the, you'll notice that it has values RealSchool really loves. Who's signing up for the's boot camp with us?

Learn More

Learn more about Kelley, Design Thinking and IDEO in this interview by Charlie Rose on 60 Minutes, which we found via the Jewish Education Project:

We've posted about Kelley before. Here's his TED Talk about having confidence in being creative:

Thursday, March 14, 2013

RealSchool "Application"

Anyone want to apply to RealSchool?

Defining and Implementing "Anti-Disciplinary" Learning

A Closer Look at Anti-Disciplinary Studies

Master Educator Rabbi Aaron Ross responded to our last post about the values of the MIT Media Lab with the following comment:

"Chapter 2 [of The Sorcerers and Their Apprentices] describes the anti-disciplinary nature of the work that takes place in the lab, where people from many different disciplines can cross-pollinate with each other and arrive at innovative solutions to problems that have been addressed in more narrow ways."

There seems to be an inherent contradiction in this line. On the one hand, the current work being done is "anti-disciplinary", or at least interdisciplinary. But on the other hand, it is being done by people "from many different disciplines", which implies that specific disciplinary knowledge is a sine qua non for being able to work at this level.

The question then becomes, at what stage of learning is one ready to cross disciplines? I know that we often bemoan the fact that the departmentalization of schools sometimes causes kids to departmentalize the world and therefore one of our goals as educators should be to teach students how to bridge the disciplines. But on the other hand, expertise is often acquired via a laser-like focus on that discipline. MIT Media Lab is dealing with people who have already become experts in their fields - is high school or middle school too early to do the same?

Rabbi Ross raises important points about the implementation of anti-disciplinary, or interdisciplinary, studies. It's absolutely true that we need experts in a multitude of fields or else how will those fields grow? The MIT Media Lab is successful because it cultivates the creativity and ingenuity of some of the country's brightest and most talented people, and those people are experts trained in fields such as neuroscience, computer science, design, physics, music, and more.

However, part of the Media Lab's success is that it also gives those very talented people a chance to "play" in fields they aren't expert in. Example: In Chapter 2 of The Sorcerers and Their Apprentices, which is entitled "Disappearing Disciplines," Moss describes the work of Amy Farber and Ian Eslick. Farber has a PhD in social anthropology, and Eslick is working on his fourth degree from MIT (we're jealous!) and has done extensive work in the field of Artificial Intelligence. Neither Farber or Eslick has a degree in biology, but they're working on a cure for lymph-angioleio-myamatosis (LAM). Farber suffers from this debilitating disease, but the medical field isn't rushing to find a cure for it because it's not a popular one and therefore market demand for a drug isn't high enough (Moss 40-49).

Moss describes the anti-disciplinary nature of the work Farber and Eslick do: "As they discuss databases, casually tossing around terms like de-duplication and hashing, it's difficult to tell which one is the computer scientist. When the conversation turns to cell biology, it's even more difficult to tell -- and to believe -- that neither has any background in medicine" (40).

Farber and Eslick have now created The LAM Treatment Alliance, and one of the successes of the organization is that it's crowdsourcing a treatment plan -- and possibly a cure -- for the disease by adhering to an old doctrine of the doctor: Ask the patient what is wrong. Medicine today doesn't mine a treasure trove of information it has in front of it: patients. But for Farber, linking all those who suffer from LAM and offering them a way to share their best practices in treating the disease is a way to find not only the most effective treatment plans, but also perhaps a cure. (For more on this "post-modern" view of handing the patient the key to his own physical health, read this review of _Patient: Heal Thyself_.)

We know what you're going to say: Farber and Eslick are part of a group of some of the brightest people in America and are in some of the most innovative and best financed conditions in the world. But as educators, don't we have to ask ourselves if that kind of lab environment is something we can duplicate for all students, given the fact that the possibilities of discovery, invention and innovation rise exponentially when people are put in something like the Media Lab?

Self-Directed Learning

Now, we don't feel a person's interest in a subject has to be as serious as Farber's unfortunately is, but we recognize that all people want to engage in learning that is meaningful to them. One of RealSchool's values is that we begin first with a student's particular interest, something that the student may not have time to study in a traditional classroom, and even if the motivation to pursue a subject isn't as grave as Ferber's, we believe that life has more meaning and purpose when we're pursuing those interests that give us most joy and satisfaction. And, as is so often the case, our passions may lead us to something as important as a cure for an illness or some other significant achievement. 

Implementing Anti-Disciplinary Studies and Self-Directed Learning

How can we implement anti-disciplinary, self-directed learning in the classroom? That's the big question, and 
it can be answered differently depending on the class in which it's asked. For example, next year at Frisch we hope to run RealSchool as an elective. In the RS elective, we can transfer the model we're using now, when we're an extra-curricular activity, to the classroom and plan events and projects based on student interest. However, we also plan to "RealSchool" the twelfth grade History and English classes, integrating them and using a lot of PBL (project-based learning). We're at the beginning stages of designing the interdisciplinary course now, but one approach might be to ask students whether they want to learn History through English or English through History. We could also ask students if they want to learn:

LitHum (Literature/Humanities) and the Arts
LitHum and Politics
LitHum and Psychology
LitHum and Social Action

By creating a class that suits different student interests, we evolve courses where students feel more invested in the material and are hopefully more engaged in the learning. Schools have already done this to a certain extent by offering, say, English electives such as The Sixties, Shakespeare, Mythology, etc. Our approach expands on that idea. 

What about Elementary Schools?

RealSchool right now is in a high school setting, but we feel that the model can be tailored to an elementary one as well, where, no question, control over the direction of a course must be tighter. But since we feel that each child is unique and has something special to contribute to the world, don't we want to find out what that something special is and enable that child to get started as soon as possible on a path of learning that is exciting and fulfilling to him and that has the potential to add real value or charm or amazement to the world?

Michelangelo's father used to beat him because he neglected his lessons and drew all the time (Michelangelo's Biography). 'Nuff said.

Here's a video that adorably illustrates what even kindergartners can do with PBL and self-directed learning:

Be sure to check out the website. It's a great resource for PBL and other amazingly innovative learning strategies and tools. 

Last night on #jedchat, we commented that when we asked a senior in one class what he'd like to learn, he responded by saying, "No one's ever asked me that before." That is so sad. Let's change that, and let's be careful but creative when doing so. 

Work Cited:

Moss, Frank. The Sorcerers and Their Apprentices. New York: Crown Business, 2011. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Sorcerers and Their Apprentices

Ken Gordon at PEJE suggested on Twitter that those of us interested in "changing education paradigms" (thank you, Sir Ken Robinson) read The Sorcerers and Their Apprentices by Frank Moss, the former director of the MIT Media Lab, which is what RealSchool wants to be when it grows up.

The MIT Media Lab
In the book's Preface, Moss lays out the chapters and simultaneously shares the vision at the heart of the MIT Media Lab. Following is a summary of that vision, one which will sound familiar to anyone who has been drinking the RealSchool Kool-Aid , ahem, participating in the RealSchool learning endeavor:

  • Chapter 1 is about the creative freedom researchers have at the lab, which allows them to "invent according to their passions and curiosities, in an environment where the only real rule is that there are no rules, and where there is no such thing as failure."
  • Chapter 2 describes the anti-disciplinary nature of the work that takes place in the lab, where people from many different disciplines can cross-pollinate with each other and arrive at innovative solutions to problems that have been addressed in more narrow ways. 
  • Chapter 3 is one of RealSchool's favorites, describing the hard fun researchers enjoy in the lab because they are encouraged to "express their most fanciful ideas by building them and then seeing what happens when people use them" 
  • Chapter 4 is about serendipity by design, or what happens as a result of the fact that the lab encourages "accidental" encounters among students and teachers that enrich and improve the projects the different teams are working on (xiii-xiv). This philosophy of design by chance is described well in Steven Johnson's book Where Good Ideas Come From. We showed the following clip narrated by Johnson at RealSchool's first meeting this year:

Now that you're acquainted with some of the Media Lab's values, here's RealSchool's mission, which was hashed out by the RealSchool members of 2011-12 and Mrs. Tikvah Wiener, RealSchool's founder and director. Of course, RealSchool is not only a group of clubs, as we describe it below; it's also as an educational philosophy that can be used to form an academic program as well. In fact, baby RealSchool is going to be a toddler next year, because it's going to be offered as an elective at The Frisch School in Paramus, NJ. 

RealSchool's Mission Statement (see our website for more information about the program):

“If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I?” -- Hillel, Ethics of the Fathers, 1:13

RealSchool is a group of clubs that are linked together by a matrix of shared beliefs about how one learns and the way learning benefits the self and others. One of the key values of RealSchool is that learning should be self-directed, that is, what one learns should be chosen by the individual. However, once a student has selected a RealSchool team in the area of interest s/he has, all learning takes place collaboratively. Learning at RealSchool is also primarily experiential rather than based on the knowledge of an expert, commonly referred to in the past as a teacher. In addition, RealSchool encourages -- no, demands -- divergent, creative thinking that enables students to apply their knowledge and skills to real life and the challenges of the real world.

The relationship that all RealSchool members are taught to create within the RealSchool community and with the broader world is a caring, symbiotic one. Students may join a particular RealSchool team because of a talent or interest they have, but they must learn about the talents that others possess and how to help others pursue their interests. Therefore, though the process of joining RealSchool  begins with the self and an individual’s interests, it ends in a stronger community, as students are not only consumers, that is, recipients of help from RealSchool teams, but are also producers, that is, ones who give help to fellow teams and ultimately to the larger community.

Built into RealSchool’s DNA, then, is a focus on student empowerment: students choose what and how to learn. However, students also come to realize that by doing the very things they love, they can benefit not only their peers but the community and world at large.

Stay tuned for more sound bytes from Frank Moss' book! 

Work Cited:

Moss, Frank. The Sorcerers and Their Apprentices. New York: Crown Business, 2011. Print. (Yes, people still read books!)

Friday, March 8, 2013

Self-Directed Learning in Senior English Elective

For the last part of the senior year in Hot Topics, the Frisch twelfth-grade English elective course, students are completing a self-designed project. Here are the questions they answered recently about their choice of topic:

Setting up the Project

1) What do you want to learn or produce?

2) How will you go about learning or creating your project?

3) Are you going to work alone or with someone?

4) How much time do you think your learning process or project will take?

5) What will the presentation of your learning or project be?

At the end of each period, students describe what they accomplished over the course of the period. Sometimes they share aloud, sometimes in posts to the class GoogleDoc about the project, and sometimes in an app. Here are some written responses:

Sample Student Projects

J.A.'s topic is extreme sports:

Today we researched the topic extreme sports. We have discovered new and exciting extreme sports, such as Snowscootering, sand boarding, and even kayak jumping. Each of these sports requires courage and the willpower to overcome the fear of death. Our presentation will include many of these death-defying sports that will blow your mind.

O.B. is working on a presentation about exercise:

It is important to exercise because being active will prevent your muscles from becoming weak and flabby, your heart and lungs from not working effectively, and your joints from becoming stiff and prone to injury. Exercising reduces the chances of getting high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, & other diseases. Exercise also helps improves stamina by training your body to be more efficient and use less energy to do the same amount of work as you did previously. Using weights and other forms of resistance training develops your muscles, bones, and ligaments for increased strength and endurance. Stretching exercises are important for good posture, which will keep your body limber so that you can bend, reach, and twist. Improving your flexibility will reduce the chance of injury and improve balance and coordination. Exercise is important for weight loss as well. If you burn more calories than you consume, you will lose weight. Exercises will also improve the quality of your life, because it helps you reduce stress, lift moods, and sleep better. Exercise will keep you looking younger and healthier throughout your life.

Three students are working on a project about drugs. Here's R.A. on his portion of the project:

My segment of the lesson on different kinds of drugs will be devoted to “hallucinogens,” “entheogens,” in other words, the “psychedelic” side of drugs. These drugs are known to create hallucinations or visions that are not real or can never be possible. Some of these drugs include LSD or “acid,” psilocybin mushrooms, Spice, and JWH018. First I would like to talk about the names of the category. For example, entheogen means literally: “creating divine within.” These drugs are often used in religious practices in order to experience prophecies and to get closer to the deity. Other times these drugs are used recreationally or to treat depression.

Apps in Self-Directed Learning

This past week students used Educreation to record their progress on their projects:

These students are gathering images about their topics and
then narrating how their projects are progressing. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Educator Dan Rosen Weighs in On the SAT's vs. 21st-Century Learning

Welcome Guest Blogger, Rabbi Daniel Rosen, English teacher at The Frisch School. Rabbi Rosen weighs in on SAT's, 21st-century learning and RealSchool's T-shirt campaign.

Geste Post

Before you say anything, geste is a word. I looked it up. Yes, it is archaic, but these days, who isn't?

Education is a tricky thing. I just taught you something and it probably didn't hurt, mostly because you didn't know that you were being taught and you needed the information I presented in order to appreciate fully the title of this blog post. Usually, education is painful. Learning about math and science and junk-like facts that haven't happened in 200 years seems like a waste of time. And having a teacher in the classroom telling the students that so much of this stuff is somehow relevant and useful, when we all know it isn't, doesn't help.

So why do we do it? Why do we memorize the Bill of Rights, or learn how to speak Lithuanian? I say what I am about to say only half facetiously: We don't need to learn stuff if we have the external brain that is the internet to present us with this knowledge at a moment's notice. Facts become a waste of brain cells. Now, I have railed, recently, against this idea of handing over the keys to our intellect to the virtual world. I don't like the idea that people have changed and now need to have data presented differently. But the fact is, it used to be necessary to know how to use a slide rule, but since technology has outmoded that skill, we rarely teach their use any more. So if we are talking about an evolution in education, one which allows the number crunching and data aggregation to be the task of the CPU on some server farm, and one which makes it OK, even desirable for a student to have his "head in the cloud" (HA!), then what is the role of the human brain?

The answer is "collaborative problem solving." Students don't need to memorize facts but to learn how, and more importantly, when, to access the facts and use them. Giving students real-world challenges and situations which ask them to APPLY information might prepare them more accurately for the real world. But why aren't we doing this? Why are things like project-based learning still sputtering at the starting gate? The answer is a basic three-word phrase:

ess aiye tee

The SAT and other standardized tests do not ask students to think and apply. They do not challenge students to use information. True, they don't ask for pure spit-back of knowledge (well, some other tests do) but they don't ask for the synthesis of any new ideas, only for recall and simple inferences. By the way,  since I'm an English teacher, I'm talking about the Verbal sections. Apparently, there is math on the test, but I can't rail against something I don't understand.

And, to make matters worse, the world acts (for a brief window of time from March of 11th grade to November of your sophomore year of college) that the SAT grades matter. That you can be compared to others based on your scores and that anyone from the outside can quantify your skills and potential based on how well you bubbled in some circles. 

The backlash is here, though.

We are selling shirts in the school where I work which read "I Am More Than a Test Score." I'd like to think that a few shirt sales should resolve the entire issue of the underlying structure of our educational system, but I have my doubts.

First, to colleges, I am more than just a test score. I am a test score and an application fee. Sometimes a photo.

Second, I may be exactly a test score, but it depends on the test. Like a blood test? Yep, that's me all right.

And third, I'm significantly less than a test score. I did really well on the SAT's and consider that to have been my academic peak. I haven't approached that ever since. I WISH I could be my test score.

And fourth, consider the small child whose parents, due to an unfortunate misunderstanding, named him "Test Score." There are over 100 results for the last name "Score" in the US. Some kid will be judged as a Test Score because he wants to be. Who am I do say I am better than he is.

So, in sum, what I want you to take from this entry is "current state of education, bad, technologically aided shift de-emphasizing fact gathering and accentuating coordinated application and problem solving skills, good, T-Shirts, potentially offensive but useful at creating cool tan lines.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

RS The Arts Salutes Jamie as Best Poet in Recent Poetry Slam!

This past week, multi-talented RS member Jamie (she's also busy designing logos RS needs for various events and projects) won Best Poet in a Poetry Slam on March 4 The Frisch School attended at Rambam High School. Here are the poems Jamie submitted:

Free Verse

Dirt at the Base of a House
The basement
The perfect place to be
When I'm tired
So tired of this

I need to unwind
To reflect in this room
To use fatigue as fuel

Fueling my time
With messy emotions
That grow from rubble
At the root of my heart

Base human emotions
are Meant to breathe
To be vital, to be cruel

Feeling worn down
Is as basic as dirt
Wearing down these sturdy boots
Slowly and fully

So I unlace my boots
Walk down seventeen steps
To the place I can sit and just be

Found Poem

Rereading the Bible 

In G-d's heart
I tried my level best
But I failed to see how
For the thousandth time

I was sure I'd never seen Him before
And His eyes were the problem
Blind to the whole affair
I looked away late in the winter

I was reading the same book over and over
And that's when the math kicked in
I saw the long list of fatal flaws
So why bother with it?

I don't know... It kind of helps
Whenever you read without a moment's pause
Well, it's a metaphor... See?
And yes, I'm doing okay.

Here was The Challenge:

A)    In honor of Passover, one poem concerning Jewish Identity will be presented in the form of “Found” poetry in honor of the numerous “Found” moments in the Exodus story: Pharaoh’s daughter finding Moses, Moses finding the burning bush, and of course, the nation finding freedom.

B)     Free Verse Poem on leaving Home and the centrality the Home has in Jewish life
The Prizes:
Winners will be chosen in the categories of “Best Poet,” “Best Free-Form Poem,” “Best Found Poem” and “Best Speaker.”

Click here for more information on found poems.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Fashion Show Update

At our weekly Fashion Show meeting this past Thursday, February 28, we got a lot done:

1) In keeping with the spirit of Purim, which was last week, we announced on Shushan Purim that we would be selecting our models by casting lots, that is by choosing names from a bag. On Thursday morning, during our meeting, we sent girls from the fashion team around the school to see which female students wanted to submit their names. We'll be selecting our models this week.

2) In the meantime, members of the Fashion team working as designers began to plan what kind of outfits they wanted their models to wear. The juniors are working on one set of designs for models dressed as professionals. That's to represent the daughters of Tzlafchad, who in the Torah ask Moses if they can inherit their father's land even though they aren't men. Yeah, those girls went there, even though they lived during Biblical times! Here are the junior ideas so far:

Welcome to the new freshman designer team, made up of Miriam, Ayelet, Jessica and Racheli. Those girls are already hard at work.

3) The Finance team is busy finding out how we can work with Not for Sale to promote the organization and the work it does before and during our event. Here is the latest script we wrote for Caroline and Julia, who are going to contact Not for Sale:

Scripts for Fashion Show

Of course, we made sure Not for Sale has 501 (c) 3 status -- meaning it's a non-profit -- but we also
used social media to make certain it had enough Likes on Facebook to be considered a popular organization.
It's not UNICEF, which had 2.4 million Likes the day we checked FB, but it had 44,000, which is respectable!
4) The Arts team is working on the art exhibit for the fashion show. The art will focus on subjugation of women still happening in the world today. We've decided to do a photo exhibit and modify images using apps or other digital media. We'll line one wall of the auditorium with those photos. Right now, The Arts team is conducting research on human trafficking; Elisheva found the following site, which we posted on our Facebook page last week:


5) Finding kosher Fair Trade foods is harder than we thought it would be. Faculty advisor Mrs. Ahuva Mantell has been hard at work trying to find food traded fairly that has proper kosher supervision. Her efforts and the Health and Environment team's cooking event on Thursday night led us to pose the question of whether kosher supervision should mean not only that a food has been prepared according to Jewish law and but also in an ethical manner. Share your answer on our FB page:

What Should "Kosher" Mean?

Stay tuned for more info about the Frisch Fashion Show!