At B’nai Shalom we meet the kids where they are, in order to get them to where we want them to be.
This summer Carolyn Hawks, Lower & Upper School Division Head, and I attended a conference at the IDEA High School in Tenafly, NJ. While the emphasis of the conference was on Project Based Learning, my biggest take away from this conference was the idea of creative confidence. Creative confidence is transformative, it allows us to think, dream, make, and explore without limitation.
Over the past few years, we have truly embraced Project Based Learning (PBL) at B’nai Shalom. Teachers and students utilize the Fab Lab to create projects related to an area of study. Yet, projects don’t teach anything in and of itself. We embrace PBL because it allows kids to learn about themselves and their ability to create. It’s a self-discovery process. PBL is not about cranking out projects but about producing high quality, creative work.The driving forces that create high quality work are a student’s sense of belonging and engagement.
It’s important to know that creative confidence does not come naturally to all students and needs to be instilled. Teachers need to be empathetic to those students who do not yet have creative confidence. Teachers should model this for their students. We know that children are not motivated by being told to try harder and effort is not about trying harder. What actually drives people to work really hard at something is the notion that they will achieve success. At B’nai, we work to cultivate the belief that abilities can be developed through hard work and dedication. For example, when a child is showing a lack of effort, our teachers ask, “What is getting in the way of you participating today?”
B’nai teachers build trust by providing the necessary time and support for each student. They know their students’ individual learning styles and provide options to match those learning styles. We provide a safe learning environment where multiple iterations of work are not only allowed, but encouraged.
Process is celebrated in order to instill creative confidence. This includes the struggles, the mistakes, the risks that were taken, and the strategies that were used. We also celebrate the product. For students to put forth the required effort, they need to believe that their work really matters. Students at B’nai Shalom truly know they are valued, that they matter and their work matters, thus leading to creative confidence.
These are photos of the 1st grade class in the Fab Lab. The students are making cloth napkins for the lower and upper school children to help eliminate the amount of paper napkin waste.