Works of art by their very nature invite us to slow down, look carefully and wonder about them and, when explored, using some simple yet powerful strategies, can invoke higher order thinking. In addition, works of art have many stories to tell and visually connect students to a wide range of content areas. So how can we create experiences with art images that strengthen students’ thinking and learning across the curriculum?
HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal
Art and Aesthetics
The study and practice of the arts can serve as a powerful vehicle for learning. This issue presents ways that the arts can deepen intellectual inquiry as well as sparking creativity, engage students' hearts and minds in science, literature, and all aspects of Jewish studies, expose learners to provocative, contemporary issues of culture and politics, and draw meaningful connections across the curriculum and among people.
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“Art is the most effective mode of communications that exists.” John Dewey
Due to their expressive nature and the possibility of multiple interpretations, works of art allow for conversation from a variety of points of view, experiences and different ways of learning. Contemporary artists often address social, religious, political and cultural issues, providing a framework for exploring challenging and difficult subjects.
Memory is fickle. Some painful moments in our lives—a childhood transition from one school to another, teenage love relationships—become dimmer as the years pass. But memories such as physical abuse or the death of a parent can reappear continually in the mind. Holocaust historian Saul Friedlander notes that when memories surface, we may be able to reconcile events, bring closure or establish some sense of healing, as did some Holocaust survivors.
Barefoot, students spill out of the classroom, and gather on the field outside. Wandering about—slowly, methodically, each aware of how the surfaces they traverse each day actually feel—soft grass, squishy mud, concrete and gravel. Their meanderings lead them to a circle where slabs of clay have been prepared awaiting their bare feet.
In an era of choice, it is essential to understand that current and prospective parents and donors must feel inspired by the work we do in our schools. One study showed that, “where schools are concerned, [parents believe] that a visual impression can afford an accurate means of assessing the performance of the school. In other words, even if parents rely only on visual cues, they can still make a reliable assessment of the school’s educational quality” (Emily Van Dunk and Anneliese Dickman, School Choice and the Question of Accountability).
Much attention has been given to the “whole child” approach to learning, as each child has a unique blend of cognitive, sensory, social, emotional, physical and creative abilities. As Jewish educators, we are privileged to take that concept a step further. We are called upon to teach the “whole spiritual child.”
Thirty-six years of RAVSAK, the Jewish Community Day School Network. Thirty years of conferences. Twenty-eight years of a newsletter that morphed into a journal that is read by hundreds of day school leaders, both lay and professional, and hundreds of other thought leaders in the field of Jewish day school education. This is a double chai legacy of which we can all be very proud. As RAVSAK merges and metamorphoses into something bigger (it’s hard for me to say “better,” but I mean that too), we are all a little sad.
I’m not sure if it’s coincidence or providence that the termination of RAVSAK as an independent entity and my tenure as board chair, as well as the graduation of my youngest child from high school, are all occurring at the same time in my life. I have been stewarding children through Jewish day schools for 26 years and working on the boards of my local schools and RAVSAK for 16 of those. So these transitions are monumental for me on many levels.
This month, we received two closely related questions. Looking at them together will enrich our understanding of the many issues and actions that surround transition in leadership. The questions are:
As a head of school who is leaving my position at the end of this school year, how can I help to ensure stability and a seamless transition to the new head? what steps should I take? Are there things I can do to help my successor as s/he takes over?
What is the power of linking contemporary art with Jewish tradition? At The Contemporary Jewish Museum (The CJM), the answer to this questions lies in our museum building—stainless steel-clad geometric forms emerging from an historic brick facade. This building represents the relationship between past, present and future and offers a template for examining Jewish culture through a contemporary lens.
Artists shape the world we live in now, and help us understand worlds that came before. Art allows us to be curious, shift perspectives, and broaden our awareness. Artists are the documenters and storytellers of our Jewish heritage, and we need to find ways to encourage and cultivate the next generation of artists of our community.
Think of a school as a colorful tapestry. Look closely and you will see the beautiful repeating threads of art and music in the students’ daily experiences. In a 21st century school, technology is another vibrant thread; it is a medium for innovation as students tap both their imaginations and their problem-solving skills. Dr.
Since the 1950s, American educators have largely ignored graphic novels. Most considered them lowbrow, with little educational value. Dr. Frederic Wertham denounced comics as “important contributing factors to present-day juvenile delinquency,” which led to their decades-long censorship. Educators and researchers, however, have begun to challenge these views. Carol Tilley has recently shown that wertham’s research was manipulated and falsified.
Interview with Sarah L. Kaufman, author of The Art of Grace and Pulitzer Prize-winning dance critic of the Washington Post. Published in partnership with the Jewish Book Council.
A group of sixth graders fans out around the school building with their smartphones, in search of God. Their teacher, a professional photographer, has tasked them with taking photos that reveal where God is present in their surroundings. The subjects they choose (a tree, a Torah, a view from the pews in the sanctuary) combined with their choices of vantage point, focus and lighting, tell an emerging story of their conceptions of the divine presence in their world.
In 2013, a YouTube video of a young man in a yarmulke performing slam poetry went viral, clocking close to 400,000 views within a month. It opens, “There’s someone I know who’s slow to commend and quick to condescend.” Ethan Metzger’s counterintuitive poem is a whirl of internal rhymes and pronounced rhythms addressing institutional brainwashing, positive parenting, Jewish identity, and emotional maturity—a grand synthesis of typical slam poetry tropes.
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