The Kohelet Foundation announces the creation of the Yeshiva Lab School (YLS). Rooted in a constructivist model of education, YLS hopes to advance the Jewish day school field by employing replicable, empirically supported and developmentally appropriate methods of pedagogy. To meet the needs of the growing Orthodox community, this school will also be the first philosophically Modern Orthodox elementary school in the Philadelphia area.
Through the financial support of its President, David Magerman, the Kohelet Foundation has spent the last 5 years exploring Jewish day schools across the nation. “Starting a new school allows for a clean slate without the need to retrofit or compromise. Our goal is to create a school that will serve as a prototype for other day schools who wish to transform their educational model to meet the 21st century needs of their students,” says Mr. Magerman. To serve that goal, all of the YLS curricula and professional development programming will be made available to other schools. “Once YLS is open, site visits will also be welcomed,” says Holly Cohen, Executive Director of the foundation. The school also plans to experiment with novel financial and tuition models. More information about those will be forthcoming.
The Yeshiva Lab School project is being developed by a team that includes Kohelet Foundation staff with the consulting expertise of Dr. Samuel D. Mandelman, an Ivy League trained educational and developmental psychologist. Dr. Mandelman’s work focuses on understanding the way children learn as a path to transforming education. According to Dr. Mandelman, “children learn by constructing knowledge, through exploring and interacting with the world around them and asking questions. Training a child to learn this way allows her or him to not only gain knowledge but to successfully acquire the requisite skills to analyze and meaningfully understand information. These skills, much more than rote memorization of information, are imperative for success in meeting the challenges of tomorrow.”
At each grade level YLS classrooms will be specifically designed to create a developmentally appropriate environment which will support exploration, wonder, discovery, problem solving, and creativity. A skills based curriculum will equip students to become lifelong learners. Projects and assignments will foster collaboration and leadership skills. The curriculum will be rigorous and individually tailored to meet each child’s needs.
“It’s critical that the school is built carefully, with great attention paid to ensuring that the unique pedagogy permeates all aspects of the school. That’s why the plan is to build one grade at a time,” says Rabbi Dr. Gil Perl, Chief Academic Officer of the Kohelet Foundation.
Additionally, YLS will implement various teaching structures that promote seamless integration of Judaic and general studies. “We think it’s essential that children experience their learning through the lens of Torah and in an immersive Hebrew language environment. The idea that we can compartmentalize science, language arts, or math as unrelated to who we are as Jews is contrary to our view of the world.” says Ms. Cohen. “YLS is founded on the belief that the beauty, complexity and wisdom found throughout God’s world ought to foster knowledge and love of God. We see all learning as an opportunity to promote this view.”
The Yeshiva Lab School will open in Lower Merion, Pennsylvania in the Fall of 2015 with a Kindergarten class. For more information go to: yeshivalabschool.org or contact the Yeshiva Lab School at firstname.lastname@example.org.