Thursday, May 1, 2014

Update on the RealSchool Elective

"The best type of learning happens when students are asked what they want to learn." 
-- Andy Freund and Alberto Safra

The first semester of The Frisch School's RealSchool elective is well underway. We've posted some pictures on our Facebook page and have been tweeting, but we wanted to give a more extensive update. Here are some insights from the students whose various projects are yielding some exciting results and some great experiences in creative learning.

A Children's Book

"The Bennys" Brainstorm!
Benny Lesnick and Benny Weisbrot are writing a children's book about an elementary school child's first airplane trip. "The Bennys" are discovering how hard it is to adapt their language so it sounds like a child is speaking. At every step of the writing process, they've had to stop and think about how a young child would express him- or herself and what kind of language early childhood students would understand. Benny and Benny benefited from a visit from Maimonides School's Naty Katz and Frederique Smits, who, when they visited the RealSchool elective, project tuned the book by pointing out that the text should be concise, since young children wouldn't be able to absorb so much text at once.

Right now "The Bennys" are proofreading and editing their book and deciding on the kinds of illustrations they'd like for it. If they're lucky, Lauren will have time to illustrate their tome.

A Comedy Series

Sammy Katz and David Zucker, who entered the class intending to work on an idea in sports management, changed their project early on in the semester, deciding instead to write a comedy series and then film the pilot episode. Sammy and David's comedy series focuses on the life of a student in an Orthodox Jewish high school who has to balance a dual curriculum, deal with the tensions of Modern Orthodoxy, and simply survive a school day (we wonder where they got this idea from!).

After sketching out the plots for episodes in a first season,
David and Sammy led a writing session where
their classmates project tuned by helping the two decide
what was funny and what needed more humor
Sophomore Oren Mendelow, head of RS' Video Production team,
 taught David (left) and Sammy (right) how to use video equipment
Sammy and David asked the class to be filmed in a scene for their show.
The truth is, whenever Sammy and David need actors or extras,
they tap the RS students who can take a break from their work.
Filming a series and working the video equipment is a lot harder than they thought it would be, reports Sammy. They'll have more feedback once they wrap. Right now, they've just about finished shooting all the scenes they need for their pilot. Then they'll edit and -- hopefully -- have a pilot to air.


Maddie and Marni Loffman ('14) worked on the fashion show;
Marni and senior Talia Schabes began the cookbook that Maddie
is working on now
Maddie Rosen is picking up a project RealSchool has been working on for awhile: a green cookbook. For the past two school years, we've been gathering and testing healthful recipes and tips for going green. Maddie is working on formatting the work, making it unified and visually appealing. She's also continuing to research nutritious recipes. Maddie shared this: "Formatting a cookbook is hard. Once you write a recipe one way, you have to make sure every recipe follows that pattern." Maddie also added that "writing the recipes out makes vegetables so much more appetizing."

Thanks to Nina Kampler for inspiring this tomato soup recipe
for our cookbook!
Today, working on a tomato soup recipe, Maddie commented, "Honey, as opposed to sugar, in tomato soup is interesting."

Energy-Producing Floor

Our one engineering project in the RealSchool elective is an energy-producing floor Andy Freund and Alberto Safra are working on. They're teaching us some pretty interesting terms, such as piezoelectricity, which converts mechanical energy to electric and vice versa. Consulting every once in a while with one of Frisch's chemistry teachers, Mr. Evan Silberstein, Andy and Alberto are bringing in and sometimes cooking up all sorts of intriguing materials:

Andy made these crystals at home but failed forward:
they weren't good enough to use in the motherboard for the floor
We like that the students not only learn about each other's projects,
but sometimes stop what they're doing on their own work
when another team is doing something particularly fascinating.
Here, Alex (left), who is working on a Parkour website,
helps Andy break down crystals
Early on in the semester, Naty Katz and Frederique Smits,
from Maimonides in Boston, stopped by to visit the RS elective.
They were great project tuners!
Alberto gets busy making the motherboard

Medical Illustrations

Lauren Kershenbaum has been busy combining her talents in art with her interest in medicine. She's creating medical illustrations, a unique and fascinating choice for a self-directed learning project. Lauren works assiduously each day, turning out drawings of the various muscles and organs of the body. Here is a sampling of her work:

Lauren not only does beautiful work; she works quickly as well,
creating at least one illustration a day.
The muscles of the third finger
We love the multiple angles of these lips and mouths


Alex Kershenbaum -- Lauren's twin brother! -- and Eitan Prince are working on a website on Parkour. The site will feature videos the two are making that demonstrate how to execute Parkour moves as well as explanations of the physics involved in the sport and which muscles are employed when doing it. We love the multi-disciplinary nature of this project, and . . . how cool is this photo of Alex?

So far, the two have shot video -- with equipment The Covenant Foundation donated to Frisch RealSchool -- that they're now editing, and have come a long way on the website, but we're going to wait until the two are done before we debut it!

We love everything Alex and Eitan are using for this project: athletic ability, knowledge of physics, videography, website design, and more.

It only looks like they're texting each other; in truth,
Alex and Eitan are busy building their Parkour website

A Stress Handbook

The RS elective is offered to juniors, whom we all know are some of the most stressed out students in high school. No wonder, then, that once Amanda got done making this informative video about manmade disasters for RealSchool's Fashion Show and Dance Performance this year, she decided to create a stress management handbook for the school. So far, Amanda has taught us:
  • our mental states directly impact our physical state so that  . . .
  • physical ailments are really caused by stress
  • sleep, healthy eating, exercise, and relaxation relieve stress
Amanda working hard so students can feel less stress
. . . about working hard

Detox for the Decalogue

With the Jewish holiday Shavuot coming up, Amanda's work made us want to incorporate it into our Detox for the Decalogue program. Detox for the Decalogue is RealSchool's three-day preparation for Shavuot, the holiday on which we celebrate the receiving of the Torah. Based on the fact that the Israelites had a three-day preparation for Moses' giving them the Tablets of the Law, which is the basis of the Torah, the Detox program focuses on physical, mental, and spiritual health. 

Amanda's project will be perfect for the mental health day in particular, but it shows how physical, mental, and spiritual health are all, as we know, interconnected. Once we were thinking about using Amanda's project and turning the Detox program into the class's Project Fair, we saw how easily some of the other projects also fit into the program. Obviously, the cookbook works well for physical health, as does the Parkour website. Andy and Alberto's energy-saving floor will also be featured on our physical health day, as it shows us how we can stay healthy by walking and make the earth more sustainable by doing so.

Lauren's medical illustrations won't only be used as visual reminders to keep fit; they'll also be part of an art exhibit on the power of prayer. We'll juxtapose the drawings with the blessings we say each morning, which make us grateful for our bodies and the wonderful way they work. The art exhibit will, additionally, be used for RealSchool's Yom Iyun, our student-run learning program, which this year is May 27, right before the Detox for the Decalogue. 

The children's book and comedy series were tougher to incorporate into the program, but here's where the students hit on something that educational innovators are working hard to make people understand: the importance of creativity. The students felt all the projects they've been working on are creative, and the ones that weren't necessarily about physical or mental health should be featured on the spiritual health day, because creativity is something we all need in order to survive. How's that for the meta-purpose of the class having its intended impact? 

It's been a really wonderful first semester so far for the official Frisch RealSchool elective, and we can't wait to see and share the final projects.