Students were absent in the hallways of The Joseph and Florence Mandel Jewish Day School in Beachwood but their work from the past year was still on display June 27 to 28 for 16 visiting teachers to observe the results of Integrated Project Based Learning.
IPBL is a teaching method where students can learn and gain skills throughout the year by working together to investigate and respond to an “essential question,” said Leah Spector, principal and director of Judaic studies.
Each grade formulates its own question with the help of teachers and completes research to find the answer, ultimately creating an exhibition of projects at the end of the year that encompasses the multitude of answers.
It was the first time Mandel JDS invited teachers – mostly from the Cleveland area with some from Atlanta and Pittsburgh – into its school to learn how to integrate IPBL into their own classrooms, Head of School Jerry Isaak-Shapiro said. Mandel JDS integrated the method into its classroom close to six years ago.
“When you come across something that works for you, you want to share that with your colleagues,” he said. “We’ve wanted to share what we’ve been doing with our teachers in our school with the broader educational environment, certainly with the Jewish education world. We think we’ve seen some extraordinary benefits and successes because of this both in terms of teaching and certainly in terms of learning.”
Rochie Berkowitz, principal of the new Orthodox girls’ high school Chaviva High School for Girls in Cleveland Heights attended the program with Elissa Chanales, the school’s assistant principal, to get ideas on how to create an interactive learning environment at a high school level.
During a time where the visiting teachers could explore how IPBL is implemented into classes, Berkowitz and Chanales saw an entrepreneurial class where students use science and business skills to create soaps and sell them, and later donate a portion of the revenue to charity. Berkowitz also said she saw a class that created an amusement park, where students used science, language arts and math to build miniature rides with motors, design the layouts, create maps and formulate ticket prices.
“(Mandel JDS’) main thing is that school and world should not be separate places,” Berkowitz said. “You should be able to see how school is relevant to the world and how you as a student can take those skills and make a better world.”
Spector said teacher’s roles are changing in the classroom. Instead of giving information to the student to regurgitate onto a test, the student has to be able to combine information from all subjects to answer their essential question while seeing the bridge between school and the real world.
“Teachers in the past used to enter into the classrooms and they were the main source of information,” she said. “Today, the students don’t need it. They have (cell phones), they have information in their hands 24 hours a day. They don’t need me to teach them anything that they’re interested in.”