It was an “enlightening” experience for our seventh-grade students, as they used various sources of light to represent a shift in thinking from the Middle Ages to the Enlightenment period.
The themes of light and enlightenment were top of mind in Mrs. Rebecca Berger’s classes recently, a fitting theme for Hanukkah. Her seventh-graders explored the complex topic of “enlightenment” by creating visual metaphors out of lights. Using flashlights, string-lights and LED lights, students had to figure out a way to use light to show the shift in thinking from the Middle Ages to the Enlightenment period.
Mrs. Berger, the Assistant Educational Director and Middle School Jewish History and Rabbinics Teacher, worked closely with Mr. Doug Hinko, Director of Innovation and Curriculum Integration, and Ms. Alex Quay, 4th-8th Librarian, on conceiving this project.
Mr. Hinko noted that the skills our students practice in the lab are timeless. “In addition to spending time discussing and contemplating how enlightenment impacted the Jewish people, students also developed important 21st-century skills of communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity which can transfer into any subject in or out of school.”
The array of student creativity was astounding, as they used lights in so many different ways to fulfill the assignment and show their thinking, noted Mrs. Berger. For example, she shared, one student created an interactive experience culminating in each audience member looking into a mirror surrounded by lights to represent the fact that all of us are now included in society.
“Students exhibited a profound knowledge and analytic explanation of the impact of enlightenment and emancipation on Jewish lives through the visual metaphors,” shared Mrs. Irit Eliyahu, Judaic Studies Director. “The collaboration among the students was evident as they presented and supported each other to give a thorough explanation of their creative work. The students worked diligently on turning abstract terms into visuals which requires high order thinking, creativity and synthesis of their learning.”
Observing students working on this project, Ms. Quay noted that building is a “way to demonstrate higher-level thinking—the students aren't only repeating memorized facts; they are creating something tangible and are able to share exactly how they understand what they've learned.”
Mrs. Berger shared that she was inspired to incorporate tinkering into her Judaic Studies classroom as a result of a week of professional learning at Brandeis School’s Ethical Creativity Institute (ECI), which she and Mr. Hinko attended this summer. “One of my major takeaways from ECI is that students learn by doing and that the process is just as important as the product. During this project, I saw so many students in the innovation lab making mistakes, problem-solving, and trying out new ideas,” she shared. “The skills they practiced in the lab are life-long skills that they can apply to any arena of their lives.”