My article this month is going to focus on our latest accomplishment at the Am Yisrael School of Jewish Studies (AYSJS)–our first Chugim (special electives) Presentation. You can watch a seven minute summary of the pro- gram with video interviews of the students who participated in each of the six elective activities, one of our Madrichim (teaching assistants) and myself on our synagogue’s You-Tube channel (found on the home- page of our website).
When I was hired to become the School Director at Am Yisrael Congregation it was with the under- standing that I would reformat the school day, the amount of time dur- ing which students learn and the focus of the curriculum. I took this responsibility very seriously and in the process have added completely new components to the learning process. The addition of the Chu- gim to our repertoire, along with our once-a-month mandatory Shabbat Morning Family Programming (SMFP) and the technological inno- vations are now the three changes that I am most excited about at AYSJS.
On the Sunday before Winter Break, we gathered the Gimel (3rd Grade) through Zayin (7th Grade) classes and their family members in the Sanctuary for a performance showcasing the learn- ing that took place the first twelve weeks of the year during these Chugim sessions. Huge kudos go to the teachers who prepared their students and gave the audience a great sense of just how well- rounded their Jewish education is at Am Yisrael. How many congre- gational schools offer a substantial Band, Choir, Israeli Culture, Newspaper, Photography and Specialized Art program? Our teach- ing team is attempting to make Jewish learning come to life for our students. This is our goal and I believe we are reaching it. A pic- ture says a thousand words and a video probably says more. In addition to our YouTube videos, I encourage you to check out the hundreds of pictures on our web- site: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ am_yisrael_school_of_jewish_stud ies/sets/.
With the positive feedback we have received on the first Chugim Presentation, we plan on making this a new tradition at AYSJS. We learned that twelve weeks was a sufficient amount of time to produce some- thing of real substance. We will continue to learn as we make our new traditions at AYSJS.
Harvard University Professor Howard Gardner has discussed at length the fact that students learn using multiple intelligences. We are proving his theory correct and plan on continuing to give our students the opportunity to enjoy the learning process and take away something incredibly substantive.