Alternative Education at public schools

Beit Hakerem School- Welcome

How do you create alternative education at public schools? How do you truly change the environment and way of learning at these schools? The way the staff is involved in professional development? How do the children become more involved and active during their time at school?

We introduced these questions to Meirav Powel, principal of Beit Hakerem Elementary School.

The Beginning

Dror Bar-Yosef, our facilitator, entered Beit Hakerem 3 years ago, as we were interested in project based learning (PBL). Later, I started receiving emails on the issue and I quickly understood that I am a part of the brave program.

During the first year, the staff’s professional development, which was mainly Dror’s responsibility, was combined of staff courses and trainings. We initially started with the teachers who showed an interest in the program but within a couple of months word got around and more and more teachers wanted to take a part in the trainings.

By the end of the year, all the teachers were participating in the program and enjoying their development.

That’s when we realized that if we want different education and a different evaluation system, we need to continue the trainings but focus on alternative assessments.

Wow- It works

By the third year of the program I found teachers who were very enthusiastic about PBL. They volunteered to be a leading team, and with Dror’s coaching, received the necessary tools to be able to guide and lead the rest of the educational staff.

They lead staff plenary meetings on project-based learning and alternative assessment.

The other teachers look to them as their professional authority and consult with them on various issues.

Marathon of the Brave – Only for those who Dare

The last significant step we took was to participate in the Brave Program’s development marathon, which took place in Raanana during the winter. It was there that we were exposed to the swift way of recruiting thinking minds and consequently, we began to develop an alternate report card. And just this week we learned that we had won!

Limor and Orit promised that those who came out of the marathon with something that they would continue to develop and implement in the school, would be rewarded later with additional hours of joint thinking sessions on any subject they desired!

Sessions for considering an alternate report card for the first and second grade classes, one which emphasizes the learning process and formative assessments rather than summative assessments. A report card that highlights the child’s success, goals for the future and points for reinforcement, and will be more meaningful for both the child and the teacher.

This is a pilot project that we have invested quite a bit in during the school marathons which take place after school hours.

We are still corresponding on this issue and putting the idea together.

What next?

Next year we plan to continue with the Institute for its fourth year of operation – a remarkable achievement. Our activities will be based on internal sources, mainly the staff, to lead the school towards these objectives. The intention is to adapt principles of project-based learning to over-all education, rather than just a few projects during the year. Beit Hakerem is an elementary school in which PBL runs in all classes, first grades through sixth grades.

At the end of the past school year, all classes studied about the subject of ‘Israeliness’. The school is the Israeli Beit Hakerem. Each grade chose a different aspect of the concept of ‘Israeliness’ and the end of the year marked an evening of show and tell of their projects.

This year’s theme is Jerusalem as it is the central theme of the Ministry of Education. Each class related to the ceremony, the holiday or the date it is responsible for during the year as a type of PBL.  For example, marking the 29th of November not just by reading texts, but by in depth studying of what the date means, the final product being an official ceremony. Thus, learning became much more meaningful than simply memorizing a text that the teacher had downloaded from the Internet.

Last year, we added a page to the report card with an explanation for the parents on what PBL is, including examples of two projects. This year, in the first and second grades, the topic of PBL is included in the report cards, while the third through sixth graders still have an additional page with an explanation and examples of the projects, for the parents.

Since this is a pilot project it is open to feedback from both parents and students.