Who Needs an IDEA Collaborative Anyway? (And Why It’s Jewish)

Why does Hillel need the Audrey and William Farber Family IDEA Collaborative?  Simply put, we are determined to preparidea dedicatione our children for the 21st  century world they will inherit, not the world of the 20th century. To teach them the way we were taught is to rob them of opportunities and experiences not even dreamt of when we went to school. The world has changed, but schools have not. At Hillel, our goal is to help children acquire the essential skills they need to live a purposeful and meaningful Jewish life, and to be prepared for an economy that is ever-changing, as most of the jobs they will have, have not even been invented yet. In addition, children today want to engage in authentic learning experiences. I agree with the experts who believe that most of humanity’s simple problems have either been solved or relegated to machines. We are left with complex issues with economic, ethical, or ecological implications, and those individuals who have developed their creativity, are able to think critically, collaborate effectively and communicate successfully will inherit the future. We want our children to be ready to take on the real challenges of life and to be ready for their exciting and global future. Our job is to inspire a passion for learning – and to teach the perseverance necessary to learn deeply. Our job is to guide students to embrace and realize their commitment to self and the community, and to inspire a devotion to Jewish living. The incredible Audrey and William Farber Family IDEA Collaborative gives our students and educators the flexible space, the inspiring environment, and the extraordinary tools necessary for our children to gain the skills that they need. And it is what we will be able to do in this space that will be transformative for our children and community. Over the next few weeks my posts will describe the different spaces in the Audrey and William Farber Family IDEA Collaborative and how they will impact learning and exploration at Hillel. In this extended post, I want to share that, as head of a Jewish day school, it is thrilling to witness how the education our children need today is aligning with what Jews have always known. The skills needed in the world our children will inherit are skills embedded in our tradition; the symmetry between twenty-first century education and Judaism is seamless. There are several essential skills students need today in our global world. At Hillel, we focus on the 7Cs, seven skills we feel all graduates should possess. Four of these skills are universally accepted as desirable by most professions: Critical thinking, Collaboration, Communication and Creativity. Each of these four skills is woven into the fabric of Judaism. Critical Thinking – It has always been a part of our Jewish tradition to challenge us to think deeply, ask probing questions, and wrestle with the Jewish text to gain a more complex and nuanced insight into our teachings.  We are encouraged to be skeptical and always look at alternative solutions. Hevruta, the ancient rabbinic tradition of learning in groups, is what we call today, collaboration. Our rabbis knew, even before the Common Era, that many brains working, deliberating and problem-solving together are better than the lone brain. One of the earliest references to learning in groups can be found in the Talmud, B’rachot 63b, where it is written that Torah can only truly be acquired through collaboration. Communication Who better than Jews know about effective communication? We are a people of words – writing, speaking, and listening; the people of the book. We create and understand our world, our values, our ideas, and our understanding of God through communication, through the written word.  As Rabbi Jonathan Sacks wrote in a D’var Torah, Western civilization emphasizes the visual, through art and images; we Jews emphasize the words. For me, it manifests itself in the difference between our U.S. national anthem that begins, “Oh say, can you see…” and our Jewish proclamation of faith, “Shema YisraelHear O Israel!” Creativity – Our foundational story is told in the Torah. The Torah does not begin by stating God is a king, or father, or just or merciful. The Torah begins by describing God’s attribute as Creator – “Bereshit bara, Elohim et hashamayim ve’et haaretz – When God began to create the heaven and the earth…”  We are meant to create, to dream, design and imagine – through creativity, problems are solved, discoveries are made, and lives are enhanced. All of our core values – including character, community and our core Jewish values – align magnificently with what our children need to live a purposeful, meaningful and engaging life. And in the Audrey and William Farber Family IDEA Collaborative, the “world” will be at their fingertips, to create, collaborate, imagine, problem-solve, and have fun along the way!

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