Hebrew Academy Miami RASG middle school students participated in a interdisciplinary project based learning experience with a global component. They integrated math and entrepreneurial skills, environmental science, tech tools and Hebrew language in order to design a solution for a global environmental issue and do Tikun Olam.
From Landfill To Life Filled – Applying Israeli innovation to an interdisciplinary project-based learning experience
As we forge ahead in the 21st century our world is increasingly complex and interconnected; we face global issues that require students to go beyond reading, mathematics, technology, and science. Today’s students need to be knowledgeable about world regions and global issues, aware of diverse mindsets, able to communicate across cultures and in other languages, and prepared to contribute toward the common good. They will need global competence which means they are able to explore the world, define important problems, communicate successfully, and bridge linguistic and cultural barriers. Progress in this area can be achieved through global project-based learning and collaborative projects that allow students to give possible solutions to complex real-world problems from one country and implement them in their own. Learning world languages and using them to communicate across cultural, political, and geographic boundaries can open their eyes to new perspectives.
Middle school students at the Hebrew Academy Miami RASG are well aware of the concept of Tikun Olam (repairing the world) from their Judaic studies throughout the years. When they learned in Hebrew class about the transformation of Hiriya, a garbage dump next to Tel Aviv, into a recycling and ecological dream called Park Ariel Sharon, they saw it as an opportunity to plan a local Tikun Olam. Guided by their teachers, they created a plan to rehabilitate a local waste dump based on the work that was done in the landfill in Israel.
Under the direction of their Hebrew teacher (Meirav Kravetz) the students were able to communicate in Hebrew by email with Shay Levy, Ariel Sharon Park Director of Engineering and Environmental Planning and learn about the process that lead to the creation of the park and it’s current functions. As they developed the project “From Landfill to Life Filled” they had to learn different skills. In order to plan a way to finance the preparation of the landfill and operation of a profitable park they worked with the math teacher (Ms Marie Lopez) learning business entrepreneurial basic skills. In order to understand the environmental issues they performed experiments with their science teacher (Mr. Javier Gonzalez) and visited the local garbage collection facility. Throughout the projects they used various tech tools in order to collaborate, design and present their findings.
Our overarching goals for this project based global interdisciplinary unit were for:
- Students to use their Hebrew language for authentic communication and strengthen their and their connection with Israel
- Students to understand the importance of Jewish and global value of Tikkun Olam (Correcting the world) and plan actions to support it
- Students to apply math skills in order to create a business plan
- Students to use scientific methods in order to attempt to solve an ecological global issue
- Students to integrate knowledge and skills from different disciplines in order to design a functional, profitable park that will replace a local existing landfill
- Students to create an engaging presentation for an authentic audience to share their learning and proposed solution
- Teacher Preparation checklist.
- Project timeline
Phase 1 – Planning and research:
The students were introduced to the project idea and selected a partner to work with. Each team chose which aspect they wanted to concentrate on: the environmental / scientific aspect, the business / entrepreneurial aspect, or the design / architectural aspect. Then brainstormed and came up with an authentic driving question. The teams discussed the use of Google apps in the project and started to research their topic.
Phase 2 – Creating solutions and working:
The students, in conjunction with the teachers team, agreed on a timeline for the completion of the project and evaluated the team’s progress on a weekly basis. The teams met with the different teachers who guided them in activities related to the different aspects of the project. They made a list of possible people to contact in Israel and prepared an interview in Hebrew; they conducted an science experiment that mimicked the different layers a typical landfill is divided into and researched the function of each one in order to understand their environmental function and effect on the stability of the final layer of soil that is layered on top. By creating a see through model students visualized the engineering efforts it takes to build a safe waste management facility.
In their math class, the students learned the basics elements necessary to devise a business plan and an entrepreneur mind giving emphasis on the ability to turn ideas into action; taking initiative, developing autonomy, creativity, risk taking and project management.
Each team then decided on the product they will create and the format of the presentation. They worked on the written part of the project incorporating the teachers’ feedback into their work.
After successfully communicating in Hebrew with Shay Levy, Ariel Sharon Park Director in Israel, they continued to include his suggestions in the park design for the Florida landfill. At this point the students visited Covanta Energy Resources Recovery Facility, in Miami and learned about some of the environmental challenges they could face if they wanted to rehabilitate a landfill. They were also able to see first hand how waste can be transformed into energy used daily in more than 40 thousand homes in Florida.
The teams showcased some sample work to each other and the teachers, got and gave feedback which they used to make their work better. The involved teachers and students evaluated the use of Google apps in their project and made suggestion how to use apps such as google earth, youtube, sheets and more.
Phase 3 – Presenting and reflecting:
During this phase students planned the presentation in front of all the middle school students body and teachers and the “Shark Tank” judges. The judges were selected according to their background knowledge in the three aspects the project included: Global connection, entrepreneurship, and design. The teams made correction to writing and finished their presentation and product. The product was a model of the landfill before and after the construction of the park.
After the successful presentation, questions, and feedback from the other middle school students and judges, The teachers team evaluated the product and presentation according to the rubric that was shared at the beginning of the project. Students then reflected on the process and feedback from audience, and made suggestion for future projects.
- The aftermath
The teacher team met to reflect on the project and plans were made for the following year. The team presented the project in front of other middle school and high school teachers and shared it with their BetterLesson coaches. Plans are being made for the project to be shared with other teachers countrywide through a live webinar supported by Teaching Partners.
- School wide long term implications
Some of the outcomes of this interdisciplinary project based learning unit were bringing to the forefront the benefits of curriculum integration. As a result of this successful project other teachers at the Miami Hebrew Academy middle and high school were able to see first hand that interdisciplinary projects reinforce skills and information learned in one area of study by utilizing them in another area. Realizing that students get a richer academic experience by broadening the context and applicability of information and skills that are learned, brought on many other ideas for curriculum integration. This year various teachers are in the process of planning and implementing interdisciplinary projects.
Another important outcome was that the students were able to see Israel in a very positive view unrelated to their connection to the country as Jews. They were eager to discuss Israel’s innovations with the people they met at the Covanta Energy Resources Recovery Facility, explaining the role of Israel in solving global issues. Communicating in Hebrew with the director of Park Ariel Sharon near Tel Aviv not only made the Hebrew text book come alive, it also gave an authentic reason to learning to communicate in Hebrew.
From the science and environmental perspective this project helped students realized that landfills are not just a mountain of trash covered by grass but an engineering marvel that can transform trash and waste into energy resources that diminish our carbon footprint on the planet. Seeing the processes of recycling metal and plastics, and garbage incineration that produces no smoke, students were able to visualize how the original waste material is processed until it ends up being only 10% of its original weight. This allowed them visualize the importance of becoming active participants in the recycling efforts in our homes, schools and society.
As a result of the integration of math and entrepreneurship students developed the ability to solve problems in everyday situations. This project promoted the ability to collaborate and thus they had opportunities to formulate and solve problems using mathematical skills such as: analyzing mathematical concepts and their interrelationships; using and applying knowledge when working on mathematical tasks; applying and following mathematical reasoning as well as mathematical forms of expressions to discuss, reason, and give an account of questions, calculations, and conclusions and more.This integration encouraged students to think beyond the math class into a more broad and social aspect, estimulating student’s creativity, curiosity and self-esteem by allowing them to take initiatives and responsibility of the project and exploring their own ideas in addition to devising their way of problem solving both independently and with others.
- Teachers team photo
- Students’ presentation
- Video clip of the presentation and feedback
- Spreadsheet students created with for investment and profit projection for the creation of the park
- Photo of middle school students’ park design models
- Feedback from administrators:
Rabbi Zvi Kahn, Head of School
The RASG Hebrew Academy is very proud of the creative work done by a group of teachers last year in the area of interdisciplinary integration. As a dual-curricular school that offers an intensive Judaic studies program in addition to a full general studies curriculum, we place great value on interdisciplinary concepts. Last year’s project, entitled, “From Landfill to Life Filled,” was a great success and we look forward to another similarly-creative interdisciplinary project this year.
Rabbi Avi Bossewitch, Dean of Academics and Innovation
Douglas Cruickshank describes the need for interdisciplinary learning as follows, “in the ever-changing world of our information economy, individuals prosper who are fluent in several disciplines and comfortable moving among them, capable of distilling meaning from complexity, and adept at seeing connections where they may not be immediately apparent.” https://amp.edutopia.org/integrated-studies-interdisciplinary-learning-overview
When we speak of interdisciplinary learning, we do not simply mean the fusion of various subject matter; Rather, we also include the essential 21st century fluencies and skills that cut across all disciplines, as delineated by the Global Digital Citizen Foundation.
The GDCF identifies six key fluencies for 21st century students to make a profound impact on the world:
- Solution fluency – the ability to define problems and see them clearly, think critically from multiple perspectives, and the drive to conquer any challenge.
- Information fluency – skills needed to both navigate the online ocean of data and create useful knowledge from that data
- Creativity fluency – using innovative design, visual appeal, and storytelling.
- Media fluency – apply critical thinking to both the media we consume and the media we produce
- Collaboration fluency – the ability to work well within a team and how great minds can come together
- Global digital citizenship – developing personal responsibility, environmental stewardship, global citizenship and altruistic service.
“From Landfill to Life Filled” is an exemplary interdisciplinary project that meets both of these criteria, both in its synthesis of distinct subjects, and through the 21st century fluencies that are fostered. In terms of subjects, the project integrated Hebrew, math, environmental science, technology and entrepreneurship. In terms of 21st century fluencies, students were charged to solve complex problems, navigate and curate information, design solutions using modern media, collaborate as peers, and expand their environmental stewardship across the globe. The learning expanded beyond the classroom and strict subject matter as students traveled to a local waste recovery facility, conducted experiments and learned essential entrepreneurial skills including how to make a business plan . They used a variety of media to communicate globally, research, design, and present an environmental rehabilitation project that is based on one of the biggest ecological masterpieces in the world, Ariel Sharon Park in Israel.
The teachers modeled innovative pedagogy combining their expertise in Project-Based Learning (having been trained by the Buck Institute of Education through Jblend Miami), entrepreneurship education (Entrepreneurship for Kids program), and Personalized and Blended learning (Jblend Miami).
Andrea Lucero, Middle School Principal
Last school year, three of our Middle School faculty members embarked on a project based learning global interdisciplinary unit “From Landfill to Life Filled”. Mr. Javier Gonzalez, Mrs. Marie Lopez, and Mrs, Meirav Kravetz created a unit of study that incorporated their content areas of science, mathematics, and Hebrew Language. Students were challenged to integrate their knowledge and skills from the different disciplines in order to design a functional, profitable park that could replace an existing landfill. In addition to using their skills in science, mathematics, and Hebrew Language, the project also incorporated the importance of Jewish and global value of Tikkun Olam (Correcting the world) and plan actions to support it. The culmination of the project was an engaging presentation for their peers and community members to share their proposed solution. This project not only allowed the students to use their learned skills, it also gave them an opportunity to study an existing problem and find a solution that could be implemented in the real world. This project was an amazing showcase of the passion the educators have in finding new ways to reach students and bring to light how their ideas could become a reality. The project also fulfilled not only academic goals, it also aligned with Jewish values and character education meet the needs of the whole child.
Meirav Kravetz is an experienced Hebrew teacher and World Language Coordinator for grades 6th-12th at Miami Hebrew Academy. She has extensive training and experience in blended learning and differentiating instruction. Meirav coaches and trains teachers in many schools in the US and Latin America. She leads workshops and seminars face to face and online and directs collaborative and expert webinars for CET the Center for Educational Technology in Israel
Meirav Kravetz was born and raised in Israel and lives today in Florida. She holds a Master in Education and has experience teaching elementary, middle school and high school students. Meirav is also fluent in Spanish and speaks some French and Italian.
Javier Gonzalez was borned in Puerto Rico. He has been a middle school teacher for 20 years and holds two master degrees. One degree is in Environmental Education and the other one is in Science Curriculum Development.
Mr. Gonzalez has worked on several PBL projects that have been awarded both locally and internationally. Most recently he received, with his students, first prize at the CADENA Initiative International competition in South Florida.
Marie Angie Lopez
Marie Angie Lopez is a certified educator currently working as a middle school math teacher at RASG Hebrew Academy in Miami Beach, Florida. She earned a Magna Cum Laude Master Degree in Business Administration minoring in Marketing and Management and a Summa Cum Laude Master Degree in Curriculum and Instruction of Mathematics. After a successful career in advertising, she decided to move into the education field to better serve the community. As an educator since 2006, she has taught students 5th to 11th grades She teaches arithmetic, pre-calculus, and specializes in integrating technology into the classroom. As a lifelong learner, she is continuously in pursuit of innovative ideas and technology to support ALL students’ needs for 100% success.