While the holiday is still several weeks away, when you think of Chanukah, what comes to mind? Lighting the chanukiah and playing dreidel? Eating jelly doughnuts and latkes? Retelling the stories of the miracle of the oil and the bravery of the Maccabees?
In the Denver JDS Lower Division this year, we are taking our study of Chanukah to a whole new level through Zman Cheker (In-Depth Inquiry Time), during which each grade level will participate in a fully immersive and interdisciplinary project based learning unit.
Project based learning (or PBL) is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging and complex question, problem, or challenge through a project that integrates elements such as reflection, critique and revision, student voice and choice, and sustained inquiry.
For Zman Cheker, building off of the theme of bravery as exhibited by Judah and his brothers, students in each grade are exploring bravery through different driving questions.
Kindergarten is exploring the question, “What is bravery?” while first grade is looking at how one person can make a difference by being brave. Second grade is investigating how an act of bravery affects others, and third grade is examining how bravery is used to make us a better version of ourselves. Meanwhile, fourth grade is analyzing how risk-taking and bravery are related, and fifth grade is considering what bravery means and looks like in different contexts.
At the center of each PBL unit is key knowledge, understandings, and success skills (which includes standards). As our teams have designed their units, they have grade-level standards in mind, ensuring that students are actively engaging in learning content and skills, but PBL takes those content and skills a step further, allowing students to take more ownership of their learning and internalize that learning in new and different ways.
In fact, PBL is an effective method of learning for all students as it allows them to do more challenging and meaningful work, explore their own interests and share their talents, see how learning connects to real life, build skills needed to be future-ready, and learn to manage individual time and collaborate as a group. Furthermore, research has shown that students who learn through PBL retain information longer, have better problem-solving and critical thinking skills, and exhibit a better attitude toward learning than students who learn in other classrooms.
For Zman Cheker, students from different grades will create a book to serve as a resource for students, write and perform their own musical performance, research people who inspire them, create their own superheroes, design a school-wide ceremony, or even learn the language of comics in order to create a how-to manual — all while connecting to the content in new and different ways and honing valuable success skills.
We invite you to our division-wide exhibition on Friday, December 22 (schedule below). During this time, you will be able to witness first-hand the learning that took place during Zman Cheker and gain a deeper understanding as to the powerful learning that takes place as part of PBL.
Zman Cheker schedule for Friday, December 22:
9:45 – 10:10 a.m. First grade performance
10:20-10:50 a.m. K-1 Exhibition
10:20-11:20 a.m. 2-5 Exhibition
11:30 a.m. Dismissal