Inspired by her own seventh-grade project, one student embraced the values and lessons of Hanukkah to rally her peers and develop an afternoon of social awareness activities for the entire Middle School.
נֵ֣ר יְ֭הוָה נִשְׁמַ֣ת אָדָ֑ם
Ner Adonai nishmat adam.
The candle of God is the soul of a human.
To kick off the holiday of Hanukkah, our Middle School students participated in an afternoon of social awareness on Friday, Nov. 30. The afternoon’s activity was conceptualized, coordinated and led by 8th grader Ayla Kattler, with the help of other 8th graders, and three faculty members, who all prepared and presented social action topics of interest.
“The inspiration for the program was really my reluctance for Hanukkah to turn into an entirely gift-oriented holiday, which it often is,” said Ayla. “It was a way to connect Hanukkah to our modern world and show how the values and lessons from Hanukkah can help the students improve their community and the world at large.” The younger Middle School students participated by picking the topic that they were most interested in and spending the afternoon gaining more awareness of the topic and learning about tangible next steps.
After each eighth-grade leader completed their presentation of their Public Service Announcement on topics ranging from hunger and homelessness to climate change, Middle School students wrote a call to action to share with their families and made a shamash candle for their home Hanukkiah. “I wanted the students to take something meaningful from this program, something that they could bring home to their families, such as a positive, social justice action or idea and carry with them beyond Hanukkah,” Ayla shared.
Ms. Katherine Cantwell, MS Teacher, one of the faculty members who helped Ayla coordinate the afternoon program, said, ”It was wonderful to participate in an event that was wholly student led and student choice!” This project is just one example of the hands-on and student-directed learning that is promoted within the classrooms at Lainer School. According to Ms. Cantwell, “Student buy-in helps create authentic learning experiences and encourages students to be active participants in the process.”
Friday’s afternoon of social awareness was inspired by an English project that Ayla and her fellow eighth graders completed last year called “Social Media for Social Awareness” to the entire Middle School. The Social Media for Social Awareness project takes place annually as part of our 7th Grade English curriculum and is an opportunity for students to identify a topic in the world that is important to them.
“Using their topic of choice, they start a blog, create an action statement, a meme, infographic and finally a public service announcement, all with the purpose of creating awareness about their social topic of choice,” explained Mr. Doug Hinko, Director of Innovation and Curriculum Integration, and another collaborating teacher on this project. “It is always refreshing and inspiring to witness students take classroom experiences and feel empowered to apply them to real-world situations,” he added.
Rabbi Andy Feig, School Rabbi, who was the third faculty member to help with Ayla’s project, summed up the experience, saying, “Our students kindled a flame in each other during this holiday to continue to make a difference in the world!”