Students Use Integrative Thinking to Explore, Understand Ancient Civilizations

EVERlab, in its pilot year at Jewish Community High School of the Bay, focuses on students’ integration of concepts, ideas, and themes from both their Jewish and general studies courses. The Hebrew root word “EVER” means crossing over and the ability to be in transition, so the program uses design thinking, ideation, iteration, and collaboration to help students build a bridge between the disciplines.

For ninth graders, EVERlab came to life in their first semester Tanach and World Civilizations courses. As they began to see overlapping themes and concepts from both courses, such as rulers, leaders, laws, water, fights over land, and migration of peoples, they took on projects that tried to address these topics in ways that were meaningful to each student.

In teams of four, students collaborated and consulted with faculty experts, then developed, tested, and pitched versions of their ideas to a group before moving their projects along. Results included a board game that explores economies of ancient civilizations, Semitic language building blocks for kids to learn ancient alphabets, and an art installation of masks representing the many faces of the desert and its roles in ancient civilizations.

Using EVERlab’s new, integrated learning space, students worked on large portable “palettes”—hybrid writing table/easel/whiteboard/pinboards. Technology is de-emphasized in the program; everything was documented on large sheets of poster paper.

“Integrative thinking was new for our ninth graders,” says Librarian Robin Gluck, “so we supported them with visible thinking steps, which gave them room to explore any topic of interest and create an original project to demonstrate their learning.”

Does your school do something similar?

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