An Interdisciplinary Exploration of Transcendentalism

By: Mr. Roger Blonder, Mr. Devin Villarreal, Mr. Tony Soltis
from de Toledo High School

Category:
Interdisciplinary Integration

Subject(s) of entry:
Art, Halacha, History, Literature/ English, Mishnah, Science, Tanach

Pedagogy:
PBL - project based learning, UBD - understanding by design, 21st Century Skills

Grade(s) to which this was taught:
11th Grade

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

Integrated Creative Judaics (ICJ) was a new initiative for interdisciplinary education at de Toledo High School in West Hills, CA. During the 2014-2015 school year, a Media Arts 2 class was paired with a dedicated Judaic Studies class for the entire year. During the second semester, the Media Arts/Judaic Studies joint class entered into a multi-week collaboration with an Honors English 11 class to explore themes of transcendentalism through the lens of the Hebrew prophets and bring learning to life through the Media Arts.

Entry Text

Integrated Creative Judaics (ICJ) was a new initiative for interdisciplinary education at de Toledo High School in West Hills, CA. During the 2014-2015 school year, a Media Arts 2 class, taught by Roger Blonder, Director of Media Arts, was paired with a dedicated Judaic Studies class taught by Devin Villarreal, Chair of the Judaic Studies Department. The two classes were scheduled in back to back periods with the same roster of students. Blonder’s schedule was clear during Rabbi V’s Judaic Studies class, so he was able to frequently join the class for team teaching both periods.

During the second semester, the Media Arts/Judaic Studies joint class entered into a multi-week collaboration with an Honors English 11 class taught by Tony Soltis to explore themes of transcendentalism through the lens of the Hebrew prophets and bring learning to life through the Media Arts. As the English class was taught during the same period as Judaic Studies, all three teachers and students from all classes were able to meet at the same time.

Our submission to the Kohelet Prize category of Interdisciplinary Education is offered through 2 videos:

In the first video, ICJ Project Discussion, the three of us discuss the project vision, philosophy of integration, and details.

The second video, ICJ Class Highlights, expands beyond the multi week unit to show the context in which the project took place through documentary footage of the ICJ class throughout the year. The mini doc includes excerpts from the single project collaboration with Tony Soltis’ English class, As the purpose of the class visit was primarily to capture student presentations and build teams, we did not document the teaching and interaction that took place during our collaboration, but clips from the final projects are included. Our discussion in the first video delves into the content of the discussions and interaction that were had in our collective class.

We believe that the guiding philosophy for our integrated/interdisciplinary approach can be applied to collaborative programs in all middle and high school grades of Jewish education. This philosophy draws inspiration from the structure of a living tree, the Etz Chaim, synthesized with the House of Study, the Beit Midrash, resulting in the metaphoric Etz Midrash, The Tree of Learning, a Jewish educational modality in which students probe and drink from their roots in Judaic studies, absorb and process light in academic branches, and transform the flow of energy and spiritual waters into the fruits of creative expression. The application of the Etz Midrash model is described and illustrated in the videos.

Entry Videos