Since 2014, The Idea Institute (formerly the I.D.E.A. Schools Network) has trained over 1400 educators in project-based learning and educational innovation through one-day, three-day, or ongoing professional development workshops in schools and at conferences, including the Idea Institute hands-on, learning intensive Maker and Creator Conference. They also host educators and administrators from all over the world at the Idea School, letting them experience the hands-on approach to learning.
The Idea School and Institute trains teachers in PBL (Project Based Learning) for Jewish Studies, including basic theories, how to get started teaching PBL, and exploring a plethora of implemented samples from the Idea School. The dedicated Idea Institute staff have been thoroughly trained in PBL based on the model developed by High Tech High (HTH) in San Diego, CA. A focus is teaching how to assess student learning through Presentations of Learning (POL’s) instead of standardized testing. HTH’s mission is clearly reflected in the Idea School’s mission and implementation, and it’s impressively deep pedagogy. Learning looks and feels different: Socratic Seminars (facilitated group discussions), Torah Gardening, Tefillah Talks (individual, group, silent), different media of learning surrounding each classroom; ceramics, engineering projects, tri-boards, etc. The Idea Institute promotes interdisciplinary Project-Based Learning to foster inquiry, curiosity, and creativity.
The Idea School opened in 2018 with 13 students in the 9th grade, and currently has over 50 students in grades 9-11. First graduating class will be 2022. The focus of student work is to create ‘Presentations of Learning’ (POL’s), which are exhibited three times a year to parents, and the community. These student tasks are broken down to specific guidelines and milestones, and therefore students know from day one in the semester that they are accountable for their own learning and deliverables. This is a long term process and it is truly impressive to witness the change in students as they come from traditional learning models. The Idea School staff are very professional and have deep knowledge of how to initiate and manage this process.
The Mission of a PBL school looks very different from other schools.
Teaching for Equity: Participants learn to create equitable learning environments and conditions that support the success of all students.
Connecting Theory and Practice: Teaching experience serves as a text for program coursework and course discussions.
Modeling Teaching Strategies: Course instructors are educators who model student-centered, constructivist pedagogical strategies.
Student Voice: Participants learn to create classroom environments that value student voice and experience;
The Idea School and Institute hosts PBL Conferences in New Jersey annually, as well as customizable online or onsite workshops. Check their website for upcoming PD schedule.
The Idea School was recently awarded a Covenant Grant to enable them to grow The Idea Institute, the professional development and resource-sharing arm of The Idea School.
View Tikvah Weiner sharing her thoughts on Passion Based Learning in this ELI Talk from May 29, 2014: