Paramus—The 10th grade at the Frisch School recently taught their parents a little about the complexities of life today in Africa. Through a project-based learning experience across several disciplines, the 130 students have engaged, since November, in the Frisch Africa Encounter, a program designed by Tikvah Wiener, Frisch’s English department head. Its aim is to deepen student knowledge about the African continent and the problems there, as well as to learn about the ways life on the continent is improving.
Now in its third year, the program teaches students about imperialism, the slave trade, the novel Little Bee by Chris Cleave (which all six English classes of 10th graders read last fall) and the various technologies that Israeli company Innovation: Africa (IA) employs, including drip irrigation and solar-powered energy sources, said Wiener. “The teachers aimed to find ways to engage all types of learners in all types of ways,” she said, including having students select their own group for the evening “tour” the students offered parents at the recent culminating event on March 12.
Several stations together told the story of the difficulty of doing things in Africa that Americans might take for granted, “such as travel for medical care or study without electricity at night,” said Wiener.
The “Gerry Can” station was “an interactive station allowing parents to carry first an empty gerry can and then a full one, in order to experience what it feels like to have to walk for miles for water, as many rural Africans have to do,” she said.
“The Frisch Africa Encounter was not only educational, but it was hands-on and allowed us to research and create projects in order to learn about Africa as a continent,” said 10th grader Chloe Rynhold.
“PBL (project-based learning) means that student work has authentic purpose in the world; therefore, fundraising was built into the program at the start, so the students would learn about the problems the African continent faces and also take action for an organization that is helping Israel by using its technologies to improve Africa,” said Wiener.
“Emma Goldman, from Innovation: Africa, had just returned from Africa when we launched the program. She was able to come and talk about IA’s work and make it real for the students by showing pictures from her trip, of water pumps being installed and children and villagers celebrating that, of children getting excited because a delegation from IA was coming. Another cool thing was that juniors and seniors who had done the program the last two years were able to get an update about the program and see what IA was up to,” Wiener said.
“An incredible success in Israel, drip irrigation is now being introduced to countries in Africa with the help of IA, so that they too can benefit from the revolutionary technology that is changing the face of agriculture,” said 10th grader Zach Abraham. “My group and I presented our research at Africa Night. Personally, it felt amazing to show off to parents the knowledge I gained through the Frisch Africa Encounter, and explain how important the work IA is accomplishing.”
Israel’s image in the world is greatly enhanced because of these technologies and the fact that IA is showcasing how they’re being used in Africa, Wiener said. The fundraising goal for the last three years was $10,000 to light up a sister school in Africa, a goal that the students are close to reaching; each class raised about $2,500 each year.
“Learning about IA is particularly relevant for the students of Frisch, as they discover not only their obligation as Jews to better the world, but also to see how Israel is working to advance the world in ways that are impressive and laudable,” said Wiener.
Another fundraising event for IA was Frisch’s recent fashion show and dance performance evening for women. At the fashion show, eight walkers per grade graced a catwalk bedecked in clothing that reflected four different biomes. Four dances were performed that also represented the biomes chosen.
By Elizabeth Kratz