Wornick 7th Grade Tzedakah Project

By: Nicole Haire, Chelsea Mandell, Purnima Mani, Dr. Jessica Rosenberg, Cynthia Pellegrini
from Wornick Jewish Day School

Real-World Learning

Subject(s) of entry:
English/ Writing/ Language Arts

Experiential Education

Grade(s) to which this was taught:
7, Middle school

Grade(s) for which this will be useful:
6, Middle school

Wornick’s 7th Grade Tzedakah Project is a challenging year-long learning, student-led experience, facilitated by the team of Middle School teachers. Students learn real-world skills, identifying a world problem, researching an organization and volunteering there, fundraising, presenting to their class, allocating funds, and presenting an award.

Entry Narrative

Tzedakah is the moral obligation to give charitably in an effort to increase justice in one’s community and the world. Judaic teaching actually command that we give 10% of what we make to those in need.

At Wornick, the 7th Grade Tzedakah project is an interdisciplinary experience involving Judaic Studies, Language Arts, and Social Studies, where students learn real world skills about making a difference in the world. Students explore and further develop their Jewish values and realize the impact one can have on the world through giving. This is a student-driven, student-powered project in which students examine their own values and actualize them in their own lives.

The Tzedakah team teaches and runs the Tzedakah project, collaborating to support all the many aspects of tzedakah learning: summer volunteering, learning Jewish values, essay writing, research, field trips, fundraising, donor cultivation, teamwork, presentation, and public speaking.

The BIG IDEAS of the project are:

  • The choices we make about Tzedakah are a result of our values.
  • Values are always growing and changing, consciously and unconsciously.
  • We can learn to consciously develop our values and influence the people we become.
  • Our values impact the way we contribute to the world around us.

Unit Questions:

  • What major choices do people face in their daily lives?
  • What issues exist in our society that we may not be aware of?
  • Why should people become conscious of their values?
  • How do we become conscious of our values?
  • What are the values that you as an individual enact (consciously/unconsciously)?
  • How does empathy shape one’s values?

Project Outline:

  1. Prior to their 7th grade year, students engage in summer volunteer work in order to learn about their interests, how their actions impact others, the community they live within, and the importance of volunteering.
  2. Students consciously analyze their own existing values, and explore core Jewish values such as Hesed (Empathic Loyal-Loving-Kindness), Lo Ta’amod Al Dam Re’eicha (Do Not Stand Idly By the Blood of Your Neighbor), and Shmirat HaGuf (Protecting the Body), that will assist in thinking about what our responsibilities are to others, our community, and ourselves. They then select and advocate for personally meaningful values.
  3. Students research contemporary social justice issues and societal problems in Language Arts, Social Studies and Judaic Studies.
  4. To apply these values and put their learning into action, students engage in service learning field trips, including visiting Glide Memorial Church, where they work with the local homeless community in need.
  5. Students investigate one non-profit organization that works to solve a societal problem – through research, interviews, and volunteering.
  6. At the same time that students are working with, and learning about a non-profit organization, students also research and write an essay that synthesizes the importance of enacting a meaningful Jewish value, the causes and effects of a societal problem, and how an organization enacts the value.
  7. Students then present the findings of the value, issue, and organization research via a persuasive presentation that is evaluated according to a presentation rubric.
  8. During this process, students learn 21st Century fundraising skills: donor cultivation, letter writing, and “elevator pitches,” in order to raise money for their non-profit.
  9. As a group, students deliberate and discuss the values and giving priorities of the class, and then engage in an allocation of all the raised money, according to the class’ values and class consensus.
  10. Students then publicly present donations to representatives of respective organizations.

After an entire year of working on this project, students then reflect on what they have learned during the research, fundraising, and giving process. This empowering experience allows them to not only understand the enormity of need in our society, but they also truly experience what it means to make a difference and an impact on our world. The Tzedakah Project is one of the most impactful experiences a Wornick student undergoes in creating a Jewish identity and a deep personal dedication to changing and improving the world.


Entrant Bio(s)

The Wornick 7th Grade Tzedakah Project team in 2018-19 is made up of:
-Nicole Haire - Principal, MS Science teacher and advisor
-Chelsea Mandell - Middle School Judaic Studies teacher and advisor
-Purnima Mani - Middle School Language Arts teacher
-Dr. Jessica Rosenberg - Middle School Judaic Studies and Social Studies teacher
-Cynthia Pellegrini - 7th grade advisor, Middle School Math and Science teacher

This interdisciplinary team works closely together and with Wornick's 7th grade students on this year long project as part of an integrated curriculum that focuses on social justice, civil rights, and learning about how to make meaningful social change.