School Sparks: 4th Grade Learning Adventure

by Jared Matas, Director of STEAM Innovation
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יַעֲלֹז שָׂדַי וְכָל אֲשֶׁר בּוֹ
(אָז יְרַנְּנוּ כָּל עֲצֵי יָעַר (תהלים צו:יב
“When the fields and everything in them exult; then shall all the trees of the forest shout for joy” (Psalms 96:12)
During the recent 4th grade Learning Adventure, students redesigned the space just outside their classroom, known as the Bustan (Hebrew for “garden”). They were enlisted in the “Alon Design Firm” and their plans germinated over the course of the week, from the seeds of ideas they brainstormed at the beginning of the week, to a fully blossomed re-organized, repainted and rejuvenated bustan that now contains the fruits of their labor.
Students followed the Design Thinking framework, starting with interviewing stakeholders that have an interest in the outcome of their work, including both students and teachers. The student designers then articulated the various needs to be met in their redesign, in the form of problem statements that guided the design process. For example, “Alonim need a place to work independently” or “Alonim need a place to take movement breaks.”
Students explored different areas at JCDS as well as remote locations in order to determine how the use of space, furniture and color impact the emotions and experiences of people using the spaces. Students studied a variety of Jewish texts that explore garden-related themes and selected “When the fields and everything in them exult; then shall all the trees of the forest shout for joy” to paint over the classroom door, in recognition of the joy that the redesigned Bustan will bring to all who use it.
Fourth graders were the first students to experience a JCDS Learning Adventure this year. While the focus of Learning Adventure varies greatly from grade to grade, they are connected by an educational vision of students deeply engaged in meaningful, hands on problem solving. More details of this school wide initiative can be read in an article recently published in eJewish Philanthropy here.
The School Sparks blog appears periodically by various writers among the JCDS educational team. Learn more about JCDS, Boston’s Jewish Community Day School.

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