J-PBL Parking Lot

"Project-Based Learning," "Problem-Based Learning," "Challenge-Based Learning," and "Passion-Based Learning," are all models of constructivist education that have inspired educational programs across North America. This particular page is meant to be a compendium of Jewish PBL ideas - a parking lot of thoughts that could be developed into actual units... or links to ones that fit the bill!

But whether the projects/problems are authentic or not, my main concern is that we move beyond "projects" (as in art projects, Hebrew projects, building projects). This is about compelling, constructivist learning (see page 334 in the link). I find Diane Zimmerman's description and definition of PBL to be helpful, as well as this compendium of definitions, examples and links from the Jewish Learning Venture.

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EMTZA (Temple Isaiah, Los Angeles, CA) -

JECC's Problem Based Learning Curriculum
http://curriculumjecc.wikispaces.com/Jewish+Values (scroll down for a wide variety of units; these are inauthentic problems)

From Reform Judaism Magazine (Fall, 2013):
Action: Re-envisioning Religious School (by Julie Schwartz)
To learn about kedusha (holiness), 4th and 5th graders at Temple Beth Shalom (TBS) in Needham, Massachusetts are watching a video created by the architect chosen to renovate TBS' building. Channeling "Mission Impossible," it begins, "Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to design a new synagogue filled with holy spaces." Next up are "G-dcast" YouTube videos detailing the Torah's instructions to build the Mishkan (portable sanctuary built by the Israelites in the wilderness), complete with materials (gold, silver, precious gems, acacia wood, linen, etc.) and holy objects (such as the ark, lamp, and menorah). The kids are riveted: they want to know how this sanctuary was built because they are going to design one themselves.

The students visit other synagogues, churches, and an Islamic Center, and also query parents, clergy, and temple members: "Should there be a separate room where kids pray?" "Do we need more handicap ramps or seats?" "What was the temple like a long time ago, when you were kids?" Responses are recorded and tallied. Students then discuss what they want and need in a synagogue, understanding that there must be an element of holiness to everything. If they include snack machines—which they want to do—they need to offer a Jewish ethical value that supports having access to snack food.

After each student chooses whether to work on the interior, exterior, or overall building design team, the teams draw up blueprints and create 3D models using paint, fabric, cardboard, sequins, clay, rocks, and flat blue marbles—the latter representing ponds in their proposed meditation garden.

Finally, the day arrives when the children, beaming with pride, present to their parents and the synagogue's architectural committee multiple models of their ideal synagogue—featuring, among other elements, Torah scrolls, a ner tamid (eternal light), and an Israeli flag. "The adults were blown away," says Jewish learning guide (aka teacher) Sheira Rosenfield. "Here were 4th and 5th graders explaining why handicap ramps and a vegetable garden make a synagogue more holy."
Creating a Huppah - A congregation (or an about-to-be-married-couple) that needs a huppah could ask a group of students to design (and even make) one for them, after figuring out what they need to know, learning more, and then creating a plan. This would be interesting as an intergenerational project - one that uses more experienced craft/arts people from the synagogue, along with the teens.
Noah and You at the Zoo (and other similar projects) - Students could work with early childhood and outreach professionals to create (and then staff) a zoo day for parents and their young Jewish children. Ditto for an "always there" scavenger hunt at a local Jewish museum or site (or even sites - could there be a ''hunt" of some kind that is done via public transportation." Geocaching of Jewish objects or photos in a historically Jewish area of town?
Learning from other communities - I'm not sure what to do with this, but I find the revival of Jewish life in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union to be a compelling story. Ditto for the "birthright" trip for Ethiopian teens, returning to their homeland of Ethiopia. I don't know the "what" yet, but I wonder about some kind of problem/project that grows out of these kinds of stories.
Women of the Wall - Students could create an online presentation for teens going on summer Israel trips and/or young adults on Birthright that explains the situation faced by Women of the Wall, along with the tensions involved. They could create a website or other 360-look at WoW from a variety of perspectives, including various Jewish denominations/viewpoints.
Mechanical Design and Jewish Ritual Art - Ever see a "hidden synagogue" .... in a teapot? http://imgur.com/a/7Rjbr#0 Click through all the photos here. So after exploring this example and others (students could Google around - I do know that NY's Spanish-Portuguese synagogue has hidden treasures throughout its sanctuary), I wonder what an artistically-clever, mechanically-inclined student might do to create his or her own "hidden synagogue." Very cool!
Cross-community teen event - Ask teens to plan an event that would be welcoming of teens from across the community. They'd have to research religious perspectives and practices to pull this off. Teens would have to figure out the issues they'd have to pay attention to like: kashrut, music (e.g. kol isha issues), appropriate entertainment or central focus, community leaders to invite, etc.

Website on Jewish life in North America - The following, posted on LookJED, made me wonder about a group of students creating a website (using Weebly?) with information on Jewish life here in North America. It could include video & photos, be created in "simple" English, and have short descriptions.
The Lookstein Center is offering a new Lookstein LIVE program: Israel: Upfront and Personal
Join veteran teacher, Nili Auerbach, in her exploration of the sites and sounds of Jerusalem and other select locations in Israel. This class can be tailored to any grade between 2nd-8th, and can be designed to enrich your Hebrew language study, complement your current Chagim program, or broaden your existing Israel curriculum. For the Chagim track, Nili explores with the students how each chag is celebrated in America and Israel. Through video segments that Nili creates, students will be brought "live" to locations throughout Jerusalem where they can view first hand the holiday preparations and celebrations which are taking place here in Israel. Allow your students to "shop in the shuk" for Shivat HaMinim for Tu B'Shvat, and have them go on a virtual journey through the desert as Pesach approaches. This class is highly interactive. Throughout each session students are continually engaged through the use of photographs, video clips, and hand movements. For information, contact Susan Yammer Susan@lookstein.org