EVERlab 2.0: a next generation Beit Midrash

By: Robin Gluck, Evan Wolkenstein
from Jewish Community High School of the Bay

Learning Environment

Subject(s) of entry:
Art, English/ Writing/ Language Arts, History, Philosophy/ Values/ Ethics/ Hashkafa, Social and Emotional Learning, Social Studies, Tanach

Constructivist, Design-Thinking Model, Hevruta Learning, Social and Emotional Learning, 21st Century Skills

Grade(s) to which this was taught:
9, 10, 11, 12, High school

Grade(s) for which this will be useful:
6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, Middle school, High school

EVERlab is a learning environment dedicated to the integration of ideas and concepts from Jewish studies and “secular” academics. It combines elements of a conventional maker-space, including iteration, prototyping and design-thinking with the ethos of a Beit Midrash: the critical/open exchange of ideas and a collaborative search for deeper truth.

Entry Narrative

The name “EVERlab” plays on a number of ancient Jewish concepts, integrating them with imagery that speaks to contemporary education goals.

EVER comes from Ivrit, the language of our people and it recalls Avraham, who crossed from one way of thinking to a brand new paradigm. At the same time, EVER suggests both eternity, something boundless, ever-present, ever-relevant.


At JCHS, like many Jewish schools, our mission is to graduate Jewish adults who draw from their Jewish roots, inspired by our traditions to renew the world. For that reason, we teach courses steeped in Torah and Jewish Thought alongside modern (“secular”) academics. We want our students to bring their Jewish eyes, mind, and heart to the range of subjects they study. Likewise, we want them to bring their mastery of humanities, math and science, and art to their Jewish studies courses.

Over the past three years, we redesigned an underutilized auditorium into a lab for integrated thinking, with each grade devoting time towards an integrated project. As students progress through four years at JCHS, EVERlab projects scaffold additional challenge and autonomy, but all are conducted in the EVERlab.

When we set out to design EVERlab, we aimed to create a “Mah Nishtana” experience – one that looks, feels, and handles differently from any other classroom, and for that matter, from other maker spaces. Meanwhile, we wanted the space to be friendly and inviting, as we would be teaching the social-emotional skills of deep-listening, giving thoughtful feedback, and helping students to see themselves as “each other’s keepers” – inter-responsible for each others ideas and growth; where true kindness is serving one’s teammate’s needs for a better design through din (judgment/cool feedback) tempered by rachamim (kindness/warm feedback).

Now in its third year, EVERlab looks and feels very different from the empty auditorium it began as. It’s full of buzz and life: students debating, reiterating and rehashing – as students do in any beit midrash, and meanwhile, using their hands, their creativity, and their critical thinking as in any maker-space.

In the video, you will learn about:

1) EVERlab’s evolution, name and branding

2) The Palette and other innovative work surfaces

3) “Hackable” furniture

4) The IDEAwall and room geography

5) Design thinking and EVERlab

We believe that EVERlab functions as a learning eco-system, powered by its commitment to “low-tech/high-engagement” collaborative learning, but elements of it could be adapted to any school environment. We hope you will find inspiration in EVERlab’s innovation.

Click here for video.

Entrant Bio(s)

Robin Gluck joined the JCHS faculty as the librarian in 2014. Prior to that, Robin worked as a K-8 librarian, taught writing at the University of California, Santa Barbara and ESL and English in Ojai and Santa Barbara. Robin holds a B.A in English and American Literature from UC San Diego, a Master’s in Education from UC Santa Barbara and a Master’s in Library and Information Science from San Jose State University.

Originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Evan received his Bachelor’s degree in creative writing from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He studied at the Pardes Institute for Jewish Studies in Jerusalem for 4 years and holds a Master’s in Jewish Education from Hebrew University. He teaches Jewish Studies at the Jewish Community High School of the Bay, drawing from his background in Experiential Education and Design Thinking and is also a Kevah Educator, teaching Hebrew Bible to adults through the lenses of literature, psychology, and sociology.

In 2015 Evan and Robin joined forces to bring EVERlab to life. They inspire each other to make education engaging, meaningful and innovative.