Hillel: A Little “Google” with A Jewish Twist

3d printer small picWhen I lead tours of the Audrey and William Farber Family IDEA Collaborative, I always make the point that space impacts mood, creativity, productivity and innovation. Children deserve inspiring, bright and comfortable spaces as much as any adult working at an innovative and forward-thinking company. I often cite Google as the example of one of the first companies to figure out how a company can create a unique culture of workplace innovation.

Today, 10 years after going public, Google sits atop Fortune’s list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For.  I recently came across an article in Fortune  in which Google’s chairman, Eric Schmidt, and executive adviser, Jonathan Rosenberg, were interviewed about their new book, How Google Works.  I smiled as I read the interview, for Hillel Day School could be a little Google for kids, with a Jewish twist!

While many things stood out in the interview, I want to touch on two points.  When asked how they identify great talent, Rosenberg answered, “The number one thing that you look for is passion. You want the kind of person who is constantly learning.”  I immediately thought about our Hillel mission statement. It begins, “Hillel Day school inspires a passion for learning.”  We want our children to become life-long learners – interested in the world around them and inspired to make a difference in their lives and the lives of others.

Schmidt answered the question this way: “Most companies hire for the position, not the person. So they look for a match on LinkedIn for all of the criteria…that’s precisely the wrong way to go about hiring. The right way is to hire the smartest people that you can, because the business is changing. So what you care about is their critical thinking.”  This answer brought me to our 7Cs*, one of which is critical thinking.

Google is all about the workplace environment – both the physical space and the cultural space. It’s about creating an environment that spawns innovation, creativity, and collaboration.

Hillel is all about the educational environment – the physical, cultural and spiritual spaces, spaces that inspire a passion for learning, a responsibility to self and community, and devotion to Jewish living. More than Google, we aspire to touch the Jewish soul, the spark in each child.

Come and visit Hillel and you can see the change in our children as a result of the change in our environment. Ask them about the space and how it impacts them and here is what they have to say: Eric, a seventh grader said, “With all of the televisions and white Boards you can stream your computer on it and you can work as a group. It is really nice.”  Aiden, a sixth grader said, “It is more open and we are more comfortable on the big comfy chairs. It is cool seeing other classes there. It is more social. Everything is portable so we can use it for what we need it for. Love the skylight.”  Erin, a seventh grader said, “I think it is better because when you are tired of the classroom you can come to the mercaz and spread out. There is more space.  The colors brighten the school and it makes me feel happy – it is uplifting. You can do projects and move things around to meet your needs.” Alex, a seventh grader said, “It is a lot better. More space, more areas to sit and work. It is more interactive. The innovation hub is really cool because of the maker space with the 3-D printer, it is awesome. We get to make all of these cool things.” Brie, a fifth grader said, “The space is fun. It is new and makes you want to learn in it.”

Observe them in the ma’ayan (innovation hub) or working collaboratively in the mercaz (heart) and see how engaged they are in their learning.

Visit the maker space and you will see sixth graders making artifacts to recount Biblical stories they are learning in Tanakh using all sorts of materials and tools. Come during lunch flex time and see our eighth graders tinkering in the prototyping lab, learning how to use the 3-d printer with Mr. Allen, Director of Innovation, and making some “pretty cool” objects. Last week, a group of eighth graders decided on their own to make a short film that expresses their enthusiasm for the ma’ayan. It will soon be posted on Facebook and our website. Seventh and eighth graders during lunch flex time are designing decorative and functional plates to use for Shabbat and are painting them in the art studio. The first graders, with the help of fourth graders, are creating “Funky Forts” for independent reading in the maker space. They are using cardboard boxes and cardboard box tools to cut and attach the boxes to make their forts. When they needed additional box cutters, some students, with the help of Mr. Allen, designed and printed them, using the 3-D printer. They really work!

As the students quoted above stated, the space inspires. It is the same for both Jewish and general studies. Our “little Google” for kids helps to bring our 7Cs* to life in a space where our core Jewish values are always present.

*critical thinking, creativity, communication, collaboration, community, character, core Jewish values