June 21, 2024
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Yavneh Parents and Grandparents Share Their Expertise

What happens when students lead the way in their learning? Students are often granted voice and choice in responding to teachers’ engaging lessons and questions, yet, the curriculum and learning goals are generally predetermined by the teacher. However, this past semester, Yavneh Academy students were given the opportunity to design their own course from content to output through a new Passion Project elective.

This semester, fifth graders, who chose to be in Alison Landa’s Passion Project elective, had the opportunity to spend one hour per week on a topic of personal interest. The students’ selected topics included learning a new language, helping animals in shelters, starting a new business, animation, making aliyah and the Titanic, to name a few. With students choosing their own topics of study, Landa served as their guide leading them to research resources and materials, using digital resources and apps. At times, they consulted with peers and Yavneh’s Tech Department in producing their final project and presentation.

Since the teacher wasn’t the expert on students’ topics, it was important to find experts who could extend the learning and answer students’ questions. Yavneh’s Grandparent Circle sent an email to all Yavneh grandparents asking them to fill out a form indicating any areas of expertise and availability. Some of the grandparents matched up perfectly with the students’ current interests, and a database was created in order to align future student interests with our grandparents. Many members of the Yavneh family were eager to share their expertise and enhance students’ learning. Yavneh is so grateful to its Grandparents Circle, parents and extended family who helped to make these connections. Students benefited from virtual visits with a number of experts in the field. For example, grandparent Mickey Montal shared the key strategies and approaches required to sustain a successful business. His recipe to a successful bakery and hotel business is customer service above all else. Another Yavneh grandparent, Robert April, provided an introduction to French. The class also learned from a cartoon illustrator, Ms. Cheri Pere and an orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Josh Landa. The students learned and furthered their research from these conversations. Moreover, they were given real-world models of experts within their fields of interest.

Even more inspiring than students’ progress throughout the elective was their reflections upon completing the project. One student expressed that he learned, “hard work pays off.” Another shared that he was surprised that he could make and design products on his own. Finally, a third recognized that cartooning was harder than she expected, but she was so proud of what she had accomplished. It was inspiring to read the students’ self-evaluations and notice their increased confidence after designing their personal course of learning. While the fifth grade passion project concluded at the end of the first semester, fourth graders will now have the same opportunity for the spring semester. They look forward to learning from new experts within the Yavneh family and taking steps toward becoming experts themselves.

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