Why do we research and look for alternatives?

By: Renee Fine, Vanina Sandel
from Yavneh Day School

Interdisciplinary Integration

Subject(s) of entry:
Art, Engineering, English/ Writing/ Language Arts, Philosophy/ Values/ Ethics/ Hashkafa, Science, Social Studies, Tanach, Technology, literature

Blended Learning, Design-Thinking Model, Hevruta Learning, IBL - inquiry based learning, PBL - project based learning, Social and Emotional Learning, Socratic Method, Soulful Education, 21st Century Skills

Grade(s) to which this was taught:
4, Elementary school

Grade(s) for which this will be useful:
3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, Elementary school, Middle school

Why should Kitah Dalet learn about alternative energy? What do our Jewish Texts teach us about G-d’s creation, Earth? How can children begin to research, build, and educate other students about alternative sources? The Alternative Energy Project is an interactive and engaging curriculum that focus on both responsibility and abstract thinking.

Entry Narrative

Renewable Energy Research Project     

  • Section I: The syllabus for the students for this project.
  • Section II: Pictures and videos documenting the students’ work.

Section I

Simon Sinek is the author of Start with Why, and the creator of the concept he calls, “The Golden Circle.” The concept of the Golden Circle begins by asking us, “The Why” and then only can we move forward to, “The How” and “The What”?

Following the philosophy of the Golden Circle, this is how, in Kitah Dalet,  we begin our research: Why do we have the responsibility to look for alternative sources of energy? Our students in Kitah Dalet begin by collaborating in groups and investigating how natural/renewable resources-like sunlight, wind, water, and biomass produce power and create energy. Students then learn how to explain the science behind their energy source. After the students spend several weeks researching their energy source,  the students then explore the advantages of their energy source and how they compare to fossil fuels. When the students are well versed in their energy source, they are then put in pairs for Havruta Study.  Students will choose between several sources; Pirke Avot 2:17, Midrash Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) Rabbah 7:13, or a Jewish Folktale focusing on ownership and responsibility .  In order to access the students interpretations, the team will create artwork and written evidence which supports the students understanding and connection to their Jewish Text.   The last step of the project will involve participating in  the Engineering Design Process to build a model of a device that showcases their source of energy. Students will also be presenting their device in their final presentation. Year after year we can see how our 4th graders develop a sense of responsibility towards not only the  land that they live in, but also a deep understanding on why, how, they can be an agent of change. Knowledge becomes the seed that gives them power  and confidence to explore and problem solve new alternatives.                                                                

Resources for Alternative Energy Project

  1. News
  2. Internet sites
  3. Experts in the field
  4. Field Trips
  5. Resource Books
  6. Videos

Research Questions for Alternative Energy Project to be addressed on ones Learning  Poster

      1.Each team of four or five students will decide on and an alternative energy source to research.

      2.How does that type of renewable energy work? The student will attempt to learn about and explain the science behind the chosen          energy resource.

       3.What are some of the advantages of this type of energy over fossil fuels? What are some of the disadvantages?

       4.What are the pros and cons of the energy source?

       5.How is an energy resource renewable? What has to be done to make more of it?

       6.How much does it cost to harness this type of energy?

       7.Should people around the world use more of this energy resource or are there better options?  

       8.What else should people understand about this  energy resource?

Learning Poster

  • Include a title.
  • Include sub-titles
  • Focus on layout,graphics, and remember to convey sequentially organized information visually in an original and effective way.
  • There should be no spelling or grammar errors in your Learning Poster.

You-tube Video (2 to 3 min. In length)

*Students will present a 2-3 min. video to present when giving their oral presentation to the class, this will be in addition to using their Learning Poster as a guide and visual to support their presentation.

STEAM: Follow the Engineering Design Process and draw a blueprint labeling the materials you will need to create the device.

*Demonstrate how the device works or how it is used during your presentation.

*Clearly show the relationship between the source of alternative energy and the chosen device.


Havruta Study:

Students will choose one text from the Jewish sources below and then;

 *Students will meet in groups of two and participate in Havruta Study using the following prompts in their discussion  (Originating from Pedagogy of Partnership):Please tell me more about what you mean?; I don’t really understand that;could you explain it another way or give me an example?;I think this might mean “X”, what do you think?; I want to build on what you just said.; Is this consistent with what the text is saying?

   *After the students spend time discussing and sharing, they then write down their understanding and thoughts of the text. Their written expressions  are accompanied by art work reflecting their ideas.


Pirke Avot 2:17

He used to say: It is not your responsibility to finish the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.

פרקי אבות ב:טז

.הוּא הָיָה אוֹמֵר, לֹא עָלֶיךָ הַמְּלָאכָה לִגְמֹר, וְלֹא אַתָּה בֶן חוֹרִין לִבָּטֵל מִמֶּנָּה

Midrash Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) Rabbah 7:13

Upon creating the first human beings, God guided them around the Garden of Eden, saying; ‘Look at my creations! See how beautiful and perfect they are! I created everything for you.   Make sure you don’t ruin or destroy My world. If you do, there will be no one after you to fix it.’

מדרש קהלת רבה ז:יג

רְאֵה אֶת מַעֲשֵׂה הָאֱלֹהִים כִּי מִי יוּכַל לְתַקֵּן אֵת אֲשֶׁר עִוְּתוֹ, בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁבָּרָא הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא אֶת אָדָם הָרִאשׁוֹן, נְטָלוֹ וְהֶחֱזִירוֹ עַל כָּל אִילָנֵי גַּן עֵדֶן, וְאָמַר לוֹ, רְאֵה מַעֲשַׂי כַּמָּה נָאִים וּמְשֻׁבָּחִין הֵן, וְכָל מַה שֶּׁבָּרָאתִי בִּשְׁבִילְךָ בָּרָאתִי, תֵּן דַּעְתְּךָ שֶׁלֹא תְקַלְקֵל וְתַחֲרִיב אֶת עוֹלָמִי, שֶׁאִם קִלְקַלְתָּ אֵין מִי שֶׁיְתַקֵּן אַחֲרֶיךָ

A Jewish Folktale

Two men were fighting over a piece of land. Each claimed ownership. To resolve their differences, they agreed to put the case before the rabbi. The rabbi listened but could not come to a decision.   Finally, he said, “Since I cannot decide to whom this land belongs, let us ask the land.” He put his ear to the ground, then straightened up.

Presentation (Plan to use both Learning Poster/Video/ Device and your Havruta Analysis  in your presentation)

*Rehearse speech with use of 3×5 cards.

*Establish eye contact with audience.

*Project voice when speaking.

*Begin and end speech with statements to capture the audience’s  attention and to leave them with thoughts to hold and to ponder.



Section II

The materials showcased below present the following components;

  • Pictures of students working in groups in the different stages of the project (information research, poster creation, havruta study and device making).
  • A video of the class presentation of one of the groups (Solar energy). We chose this presentation to share in order to demonstrate the diversity in our school. One of the students in this group is autistic, and we are attempting to mainstream him in our classroom. The students in this group are both tolerant and inclusive, demonstrating the moral character taking place in our classroom on a daily basis.
  • A picture of students watching their presentation (we videoed each group) so they can take part of the assessment process involving their work.
  • A video of the group self reflecting.
  • Testimonies from two students talking about group collaboration and havruta study.

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  • Videos chosen by each group. These videos were shown by each group during their presentations.

Biomass: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uoa59MnCCAk

Wind: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tsZITSeQFR0

Solar: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HciKU63dLtA

Hydro: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q8HmRLCgDAI


Entrant Bio(s)

Renee Fine is a long time staff member of Yavneh Day School, responsible for teaching both General and Jewish studies in 4th grade. She has been a teacher at Yavneh for 19 years now and has taught several grades.
Vanina Sandel is a system information engineer by trade and has worked for many years in the field of informal and formal education, both in Argentina and the Bay Area. She is the STEAM Coordinator at Yavneh Day School for K-8th grade.
Together for the past two years, Mrs. Fine and Morah Vanina have been collaborating on various projects involving creative thinking, design challenges that connect STEAM with General and Jewish studies. A highlight of the past two years is the project we will be submitting for the Kohelet Prize.