“We make a point of applying what they are learning in math to the real world.” Osnat David said these very words to parents during last night’s Back to School Night and, in a slightly different way, to students the day before. Measuring is not just about lines on a page. Calculating area or volume is not just for shapes in a workbook. Cubic feet is about the size of the freezer you are buying or have at home and how much you can fit in it. Education is not theory, it is learning for life.
At Albert Einstein Academy, we have taught this lesson for years. This year, Hamorah Osnat went further: she took students outside to measure our garden beds and what is in them. Going outside and measuring something physical was intentional. It is a way of improving the lesson: through deeper engagement, students retain more about measuring and make the connection of math to the world. Those outcomes are a big part of why we chose “Einstein Goes Outdoors” for our annual curriculum theme.
Going outside is lovely. Going outside is healthy. Going outside is also an experiment in educational theory. We regularly update and tweak our curricula to provide the best course of study and materials that we can. This effort is part of the evaluation and improvement planning that led to our adoption and implementation of the Hebrew immersion TaL AM program, the Lucy Calkins Writing Program, and the upgrade to Everyday Mathematics 4. We are so grateful to the many donors who made possible the purchase of curricular materials and training for these programs. Beyond curricula, we also keep up with educational theories and practices. What we teach and how we teach both get regular review.
The annual curriculum theme is a key element in how we test educational theories to improve our practices. Two years ago, our theme was “Einstein Goes Full STEAM Ahead.” That year, we switched from desktop computers to Chromebooks. We incorporated STEM activities. We focused on engineering and inventions. We had students code computer programs. The point is not any one of those ways of mixing up our educational style; the point is that we still do all those things.
Going outside this year is meant to give us the educational benefits of deeper engagement, more teamwork and collaboration, better blood flow to the brain from gross motor movement, and more. We are going outside more than before to see the benefits and to find ways to improve our practices beyond this year. Improvement is built into who we are as a school.
At this season of accounting for ourselves in preparation for the High Holy Days, we blow the shofar daily. The Hebrew word for “improvement” is heeshtahfroot, which has the same root meaning as the shofar. As a school we encourage improvement through the “growth mindset,” and we extend this very Jewish lesson about doing better beyond one set time. Let us all aim to be always improving.
For more visit the Chailites from this week.