June 13, 2024
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June 13, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Rabbi Gershom Tave continues his series about his new Passaic yeshiva, Da’ehu.

Relevant

Children sometimes complain that their lessons in school are not relevant—that they will never use the things they learn in school. There are two interpretations of this complaint and they are both true.

One interpretation is that the complaint is not literal. Video games are engaging to children because they allow individual and personal control of the environment despite the game being irrelevant to any job they will ever do. Children want to have a degree of control and ownership of their learning in a way that requires real decision making. Gamifying lessons by adding points and bells and prizes to get students to jump through the hoops may bring up test scores and make school bearable, but its impact on real learning, creativity and innovation is like what ketchup does for a bland piece of meat.

The other interpretation of the relevancy complaint is that it is literal. Children are naturally curious about the world around them. They learn to talk because they want to communicate their thoughts and needs. They learn to walk because they want to do as those around them. They play house to practice adult life in the world around them. Worksheets with questions about how many candies Reuvi has left after giving some of them to Shimi lack any connection with an authentic world.

Da’ehu teachers create a hands-on learning environment with creative challenges in which the focus is the individual child and the world around him as he sees it. Children are empowered to make choices, take chances and own their failures. Activities are by definition interesting because the children themselves choose them from a menu of options the teacher prepares based on observations of the child.

Da’ehu learning materials are three-dimensional physical manipulatives like a modular model of the Mishkan that children can take apart and put back together. Counting and adding is mastered with special 1 beads, 10 rods, 100 squares and 1000 blocks. Patterns are practiced by weaving the very workmats on which the children engage in their activities. Geography becomes real through puzzles, board games and Jewish penpals from around the globe. Children follow recipes to prepare food, set the table and invite guests to partake. Starting from a simple party balloon we will discover the miracle of flight.

Later, children will design, build and maintain their own greenhouse. They will care for and milk a goat and make their own cheese and collect eggs from chickens, making note of the costs and volume of production, set prices and even work as cashiers at the Da’ehu grocery where an abacus will replace the calculator.

We will constantly be on the lookout for real-life things to make, challenges to overcome and questions to answer. We will learn to speak our minds and write our thoughts as we research, solve and report on the relevant issues in our world.

In a learning environment that’s not afraid to go out of the box, Da’ehu students enjoy a concrete representation of all academic topics, even those that are typically more abstract, including building a relationship with Hashem.

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