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Machon Hadash FAQs

As we embark upon an unusual year of learning, we are committed to keeping you informed about our plans. Whether your questions are about educational philosophy or logistics, we've got an answer! If you have a question that is not answered below, please email amy@or-hadash.org.

Curriculum, Learning, and Educational Philosophy

Why are we using an elective model for Judaics?

Elective-based Judaics learning has a lot to offer regardless of the pandemic. Many children are more drawn to a type of activity rather than a subject-matter, and allowing them to choose the type of activity they most enjoy as a vehicle for Jewish learning gives them a sense of agency and investment from the get-go. They come to have happier memories of the time they spent learning, feel “seen” as an individual person within the Jewish community, and can lean into their strengths as they venture into the vulnerable place of the learner. All of this pays big dividends in their ultimate investment in Jewish learning for its own sake. But especially at this time, adding a heavy dose of sweetness and flexibility into our learning will serve us well.

 

Things are not normal, and it looks as though they won’t be completely normal for a good while. Even if we can come back in some hybrid form later this year - or even all together with masks and distancing - it is not going to feel “normal” to be around our friends but need to keep a distance from them. I believe that holding tight to our pre-pandemic model while enacting all of the new parameters in place will actually magnify the sense of loss we and our children feel. The fact is, our existing classroom curriculum is built to be near each other, to sing together, to share supplies. Rather than taking that curriculum as “subtracting” the elements we cannot do, we are building new learning plans around the things that we can do and that feel natural and good to do online or physically distanced. It will feel good and natural and fun to build Minecraft Temples and a Minecraft Or Hadash. We can easily create art projects that children can really enjoy working on at home or at a distance. We can learn the ukulele part to our favorite tefillah or learn about Judaism in nature.

The “normal” classroom curriculum was also built for us all to be physically together for a considerable length of time. That’s how community building happened! But whether we are dealing with Zoom fatigue or the increasing viral risk of being with other people for increasing periods of time, we expect we will need to pack more focused learning into a shorter timeframe this year. This means fewer breaks for mingling, and less opportunity to change mode/activity multiple times during a lesson. For this situation, allowing our children to choose a mode of learning that they know they enjoy -- and even giving them some agency to help us create learning groups that will really support one another well -- will allow our elective groups to really “dive in” to the material in the shorter amount of time they will be together.

 

We very much hope (!) that at some point this year, we will be able to come back together in person, possibly in a hybrid model where we have half of our school population present at any one time. Since we are a small school that has only one classroom for each grade level, creating schedules that both work for families with multiple children and that puts together really vibrant, supportive learning groups at each grade level will be challenging. Combining grade levels in elective tracks gives everyone a little more breathing room.
 

How do these electives help keep us on track to meet our curricular goals?

The subject matter covered in each elective maps to the existing curriculum spiral at Machon Hadash. For example, our 6th graders typically spend a lot of time learning about Jewish history -- and one of the elective options for 6th graders is Jewish history through art; our 7th graders usually learn about sacred spaces in Jewish history, and one of the elective options is Minecraft Temple building.

Will the Hebrew learning pairs be grouped by level?

Yes, absolutely! The magic of small group learning for Hebrew is magnified exponentially if we can pair 2 students at a similar level. In conversation with last year’s teachers, we will create a pool of children that we think would pair well together in terms of their Hebrew level, and open up a set of tutoring timeslots for that Hebrew level. Parents can then choose any timeslot in the appropriate level for their child.

Will there be services for the children to attend?

Yes - offering services for our children to learn and experience tefillah is a big priority for our community. We will follow the usual schedule for tefilah, it will just be over Zoom for now rather than in person:

  • Weekday tefillah on Wednesday afternoons right before Hebrew and electives begin, and
  • Jr Minyan on Shabbat mornings at 9:30, with Hebrew and electives beginning at 10:15.
Schedule and Logistics

When will Machon Hadash meet? Will time slots be throughout the week as they were last spring?

The schedule will be much closer to a "normal" year than it will be to last spring's open schedule. All of the group learning for Machon Hadash will take place on Wednesday afternoon and Shabbat morning, as it did in the pre-pandemic days. Since nobody needs to commute to Or Hadash, we may begin Tefillah a little earlier than we did in person (4:30pm). We will have weekday tefillah on Wednesday afternoon and Junior Minyan on Shabbat morning, just as we did in previous years, but over Zoom.

When you sign up for your elective choices, you will be able to see what time they meet (Weds at 5pm, Weds at 6pm, or Shabbat morning) and make a choice that works for your child’s interests and schedule. Hebrew tutoring timeslots will generally be Wednesday and Saturday, but if it is convenient for both the teacher and the student, another time during the week might be set.

 

Will the Hebrew groups be at the same set time every week?

Yes. In mid-August, parents will be able to sign their child up for a Hebrew timeslot each week. They will meet with the same teacher in the same learning pair each week at that time.

Will Judaics be broken into classes by grade?

Judaics electives will be broken down approximately by age, spanning 2-3 grade levels (i.e. 6-7th grade, 5-6th grade, 3-4th grade, etc.). This maximizes flexibility and choice while also honoring the social and intellectual development stages of our children.

When will we know the elective options, and what will the process for choosing look like?

During the first part of August, parents will receive a listing of elective options to choose from, including blurbs, teachers, and meeting schedules and an online elective sign up similar to a Sign Up Genius. Each class will have a limited number of available slots, and you will be able to see who has signed up for which classes when you make your selections.

If my child misses an online session, is there an opportunity to make it up? What will that look like?

If a child misses a class, the teacher will reach out to connect during the week, and we will send a recording of the missed session so they can catch up at their convenience.

What does my child need to participate? 

Every child will need an electronic device that can run Zoom -- a laptop, iPad or tablet, or even a smartphone will work. Other supply needs will depend on the class. Machon Hadash will put together supply boxes for parents to pick up for electives like art, whereas an elective like ukulele will require the family to purchase an instrument for the child. We will do our best to be explicit about all assumptions of what might already be in each child’s home (e.g. scissors, paper and pencil).

In-person Gatherings

What kinds of in person gatherings are you planning?

We have so many ideas for outdoor, small group, in-person gatherings! We are planning to offer these as “pop up” offerings, so that we can stay flexible and responsive to the virus situation in our area, so we are not going to circulate a calendar far in advance. But if and when it seems safe to gather in this way, here is what we are dreaming up:

 

  • Torah yoga in the Or Hadash parking lot (one child to a parking space)
  • Israeli line dancing, spaced at a distance, at a park
  • Judaism in the Woods - a blessings walk at Big Trees
  • Meet up with Rabbi Lauren at an orchard for apple picking
  • Meet up at a farm to celebrate Sukkot
  • Spaced/ distanced ukulele/guitar/drum circle
Planning Ahead

When and how will we make decisions about the format for school after these first 6 weeks?

It is possible that the public health situation in late September will essentially make it impossible to come back in person, and that the Re-Opening Task Force at Or Hadash will make a clear decision for us. It is also possible, though I fear less likely, that it will be clear that it’s safe to fully return to in person gatherings.

 

More likely, we will be in a grey area, and will need to discern the best path forward for our community. In this case, we will ask parents, teachers, Or Hadash lay leadership and Or Hadash staff to weigh in in late September about whether to continue on this virtual path farther into the fall semester, or whether it seems best educationally and in terms of our health and well-being to shift to a hybrid or predominantly in-person offering. We are committed to keeping parents informed every step of the way as we make the very best and safest decisions we can.

Mon, July 26 2021 17 Av 5781