Welcome to the new school year

Cookie MonsterThis year, my role at CJDS is enhanced and I’m very excited to start school and dive in!  I will retain technology instruction, and will be the science and social studies teacher for 1st, 2nd and 3rd grades.  However, I will be utilizing a different instructional paradigm as I teach these subjects.  Learning, as I knew it growing up, has changed significantly in so many ways since those dinosaur days (as my 18 year old lovingly refers to “those” days).  More significantly, learning at CJDS has become better and better every year for our students (and teachers!).

When I first started teaching at CJDS, I had dedicated technology classes at each grade and utilized classroom curriculum to integrate the technology curriculum.  For the past few years, Donna Lerner, our art instructor, and I have had students work on longer term curriculum based projects that contain art and technology components.   Our findings supported other research on learning, that is, children are more interested in learning and hold on to knowledge stronger and longer when they are involved in the learning process.  This year, we will be taking another student-based leap – this time to Project Based Learning (PBL).  By learning in a PBL environment, they will use skills necessary to be successful in many workplaces: planning, problem solving, critical thinking, collaborative working, conflict resolution, research and demonstrating knowledge.

Here at CJDS, we work hard to prepare students for the future.  We look at how workplace needs are changing, and yes – how the world is changing – to determine how we can best prepare our students at their foundational elementary school level.  Through PBL, our students will gain many benefits.  Sure, they will learn grade level science and social studies curriculum, but also delve deeper into the academic content.

I plan on lecturing very little; instead my role will be more of a coach and director.  As we saw during the Haggadah project last year, the students were more engaged in their studies, became more self-reliant, and took responsibility for their work, while teachers were gently guiding the students.  It was a particularly meaningful, extraordinary learning experience for everyone involved.

PBL is a way of learning by which students design a topical question that has real world implications, use a variety of tools to deeply investigate the problem and present what they’ve learned.  At our school, they learn new concepts while developing skills necessary for future learning.  PBL is a natural outgrowth and next step from our Global Studies program.  We will collaborate with students around the world – sorry, no field trips to New Zealand – teaching and learning from them.  Students will research and perform field work.  They will take notes from field experts – YES, you can be an expert!  They will decide how to present their newly gained knowledge in a way that is meaningful to them.

I will start the year off by taking the kids on a journey, making sure that they have the technology and presentation skills they need to complete learning projects.  One of the most important topics each child will learn about is online literacy and citizenship in an age appropriate design.  I firmly believe that kids have access to a powerful tool and they need to know how to safely and confidently navigate the online community/world.  We will swiftly move on to learning the technology they will be using for PBL.  Thank you for entrusting your child with me.  I look forward to seeing greatness from each of my students!