At The Idea School, learning will be interdisciplinary, and will result in real-world products or events. All of our Curricular Units will be centered around subjects and academic content currently taught in schools and that align with Common Core standards. Curricular Units will also contain important skills students need to acquire, whether those are textual skills in Judaic Studies or reading, writing, history, math, science, and language skills. In addition, students will develop 21st century skills such as collaboration, communication, and presentation and also have rich opportunities to be creative and innovative. The Idea School is also focused on students' overall well-being -- their spiritual, social, and emotional lives -- so Curricular Units will provide meaningful ways for students to connect to learning and to grow personally and religiously.
Take a look at our sample project, Breaking the Habit, to see how we'll be covering traditional academic content in this holistic, creative, and personal way.
Project Unit name: BREAKING THE HABIT
Subject(s): Advisory, Torah, Literature, Prophets, History, Jewish Law, English, Social and Physical Sciences, STEM
- Final assessment: One section will design a student lounge and one section, a learning environment that inspires students to cultivate positive traits and rid themselves of negative ones
- A leadership wall that displays the successes of the leaders they studied, and their weaknesses and what students learned from those
- A group lab report
- A lit-up LED panel that shows how genetic traits are inherited
- A website that reflects interdisciplinary learning
- A regimen that develops a positive habit and helps the student break a negative one
- A daily journal -- with student-made drawings, notes, and observations, where students record how their habit-forming or -breaking journey is progressing and how their studies are contributing to their personal growth
- An op-ed
- An essay that demonstrates interdisciplinary textual analysis of the different texts the students studied
- A mussar schmooze or facilitated discussion about a positive or negative habit, with a student-made source sheet
- An image of leaders the students study, with an accompanying explanation
Learning Goals and assessments:
- Advisory: Knowledge of positive and negative habits; students list their top ten good and bad habits, and then select one positive and negative
Reading: Dr. Avraham Twerski, commentary on Pirkei Avot, connecting habits with escapism, materialism, and addictions, including shopping
Reading: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
Sample assessment: Journal entries and regimen plan
- Torah: Personal habit-forming in the Torah
Readings: Bereshit Chapter 1, 27-30, Shemot Chapter 2-6
- The sin of eating from the Tree of Knowledge and Rabbi Sacks’ commentary: Hashem isn’t surprised by sin; He’s surprised when humans don’t confess and repent
- Yaakov and becoming an “un-trickster”
- The hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, particularly Nechama Leibowitz’s interpretation of how habits and addictions are formed
- Jewish Philosophy, Wisdom Literature, and Mussar:
Readings: Selected readings from Pirkei Avot, Rambam, and Mussar leaders
- Biology and Bio-Technology: Unit on genetics and how we apply our knowledge of genetics to improve the human condition
Readings: Delewar Science Coalition Unit III: Genetics and Bio-Technology
Sample Assessment 1: Draft and final lab reports
Sample Assessment 2 (with Coding): Light up LEDs, according to genetic patterns
- Psychology and neuroscience: What happens in the brain of an addict? Are we addicted to technology?
Reading: Articles and presentation on the neuroscience of addiction and teenage use of technology, such as:
The neuroscience of addiction: http://cdar.uky.edu/Downloads/The_Science_of_Addiction_-_Mar_2008_-_NKY.pdf
Sample Assessment: Op-ed on screen time
- English: Study of characters who habituate themselves into evil: what happens to Macbeth and Lady Macbeth?
Reading: Macbeth by William Shakespeare
Sample Assessment: Essay that reflects knowledge and understanding not only of Macbeth, but of the other texts -- both Jewish and secular -- that students are reading. Revisions welcome.
- History: a study of the “habits” of civilizations, with an examination of how ancient civilizations were formed
Sample Reading: Students choose a biography of a famous leader from any time in history, and analyze the leader for his/her strengths and weaknesses
- Navi: a study of famous leaders in Navi and their strengths and weaknesses
Reading: Selected chapter from Neviem Rishonim
Sample Assessment, interdisciplinary history and Navi: Students photoshop photos of the leader they’re reading about and a leader in Navi and include images that reflect their qualities, good and bad. They write an explanatory piece about the image, which explains the choices they made when creating their image.
Sample Assessment: Students create a website where they upload their work from the unit.
Note: Sample assessments are examples of ones that can be given at various stages of the unit. The final assessment is the student-designed lounge and learning space.
- Self-knowledge: How to choose healthy habits and to reduce or get rid of unhealthy ones
- Judaism: How to read and translate Torah and Torah commentaries and make connections between the Torah and personal life
- Judaism and self-knowledge: How to find sources in Judaism that help one grow and that relate to areas of personal and/or global interest
- Science: How to use the scientific method; how to gather evidence and data and chart and graph it; how to write a lab report; how to identify the ways scientists improve everyday life
- Reading comprehension: How to read science and social science texts and understand the way interdisciplinary fields of research yield important finds for everyday life
- Literature/Writing: How to recognize literary devices; how to write about literature; how to use literature to create empathy and understand contemporary problems
- History/Writing: How to chart progression of an idea or topic throughout history; how to understand and use primary sources; how to understand different perspectives on an issue; how to understand the values of different cultures; how to formulate opinions and write op-eds about contemporary issues
- History/Social Science: How to problem solve and come up with solutions to today’s problems
- STEM: How to program
- Graphic design: How to use AdobeSuite/Photoshop
Experts and outside resources:
- Students will hear from experts on Jewish genetic testing, addiction, and interior design. Students will also be guided in their writing by synagogue rabbis who give sermons.
- Students will visit a myriad of uniquely and intentionally designed spaces to gain an understanding of how architects and interior designers use space meaningfully.
Exhibition venue and plan:
Reflection and presentation of learning: