April 21, 2024
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TABC Teachers Attend Legacy Heritage Institute for the Arts

As the school year ended last June, and many began their much deserved and anticipated summer vacations, Cary Reichardt, TABC’s History Department head, and Rebecca Lopkin, TABC’s director of Performing Arts, traveled to the west coast for an intensive week-long teaching institute in California.. Reichardt and Lopkin were invited to participate in this special fellowship sponsored by Legacy Heritage’s Teacher Institute for the Arts due to their unique Project Based Learning curriculum in the Holocaust Studies senior elective course. The institute’s goal is to encourage teachers to take Jewish values, texts and history, and give them fresh and creative expression.

As part of their work in California, the teachers had the opportunity to learn from, and collaborate with, several renown artists and instructors of visual arts from many day schools throughout the nation. They were all gathered there to begin the process of implementing new arts-based activities and initiatives with students and faculty in their respective schools. Infusing the arts into academics is nothing new for Reichardt or Lopkin, who began their collaboration four years ago when they initiated the Bare Witness theater project in TABC. Surrounded by professionals all grounded in the visual arts, TABC’s teachers were faced with a huge challenge: How would they convince the participants that using theater as an art form would be just as effective, if not more so, than visual arts? From the very first hands-on session where Reichardt and Lopkin had 25 minutes to explore and express the hidden meanings of a Jewish text through an art form, TABC’s dynamic duo had everyone convinced—even the artist mentors in the group!

Their week in California is only a small portion of the yearlong mentorship program which the two teachers have committed themselves to in order to help create a culture of learning, belonging and personal growth for TABC students. They have already shared techniques from the institute’s creative tool kit as part of TABC’s professional development sessions at this year’s opening faculty meetings, and in an ice-breaker activity for freshmen at their orientation. Reichardt and Lopkin have committed to implementing new features into their Bare Witness project based on the many new approaches to which they were exposed at the institute, such as chesed and geneology components, to enhance the process of personalizing the Holocaust for each student in the class.

Reichardt and Lopkin plan to use the diversity and differences among TABC’s students to spark creative collaboration in their project. The students and their two teachers will work together in all aspects: design, implementation and presentation of their finished project. It is their hope to create new “witnesses” for future generations, so that no one can deny what happened to our people from 1933-1945. They hope that the changes which they are bringing to their Bare Witness project will inspire other teachers in different disciplines to mark the inevitability and flow of the creative process with the beauty and miracle of flourishing new ideas into projects, and ultimately, the students, into human creative beings.

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