Project Unit name: BREAKING THE HABIT

Subject(s): Advisory, Torah, Literature, Prophets, History, Jewish Law, English, Social and Physical Sciences, STEM

Project Summary:

Students will explore how habits are formed; what their own good and bad habits are; what addiction looks like; and even how communities and societies can have positive or harmful habits. They’ll explore the topic, so they can recognize in themselves what habits are productive for them, and which ones are not, and be able to build on positive habits and rid themselves of negative ones. This is a worthwhile, developmentally-appropriate topic for freshmen, since they’re at a time in their lives when they’ll have more control over their own behavior and will have to learn to self-regulate. They’re also going to be challenged over their high school years to engage in behaviors that may be harmful to them; giving them the knowledge and ability to stay away from those behaviors is important. Finally, being able to recognize that their larger society might have bad behaviors they want to change is also crucial to adolescents who will be taking their place soon as leaders and engaged citizens of their country and world.

Essential Question:
What habit do you have that’s positive and that you’d like to continue to cultivate? What habit would you like to break?

Group Products
  • 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

Individual Products
  • 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:
Curriculum content
  1. 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
  2. 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
    Sample assessment:
    Presentations: written and oral Divrei Torah
  3. Jewish Philosophy, Wisdom Literature, and Mussar:
    Readings: Selected readings from Pirkei Avot, Rambam, and Mussar leaders
  4. 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
  5. 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:
    Sample Assessment: Op-ed on screen time
  6. 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.
  7. 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
  8. 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.
  9. STEM: Basic coding: HTML, CSS, and JavaScript
    Sample Assessment: Students create a website where they upload their work from the unit.

  10. 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.

Key skills
  1. Self-knowledge: How to choose healthy habits and to reduce or get rid of unhealthy ones
  2. Judaism: How to read and translate Torah and Torah commentaries and make connections between the Torah and personal life
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. Reading comprehension: How to read science and social science texts and understand the way interdisciplinary fields of research yield important finds for everyday life
  6. Literature/Writing: How to recognize literary devices; how to write about literature; how to use literature to create empathy and understand contemporary problems
  7. 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
  8. History/Social Science: How to problem solve and come up with solutions to today’s problems
  9. STEM: How to program
  10. 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:
Students present their student lounge and learning workplaces to faculty, parents, and outside guests from the community, including architects, interior designers, and real estate agents.

Reflection and presentation of learning:
Students reflect on the unit in front of faculty and administration, selecting favorite pieces of work and how they grew intellectually, emotionally and spiritually from the learning unit. Students decide on which pieces of work they’ll include in their digital portfolio, which will be a collection of their favorite work that they’ll use when applying to college.