Our Village at Beth Adam

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Our Village takes a learner-centered approach in everything they do. Learners’ questions and concerns are the starting place for each lesson and faculty engage in comprehensive training to support this orientation. An essential component of this approach is the development of deep relationships throughout the learning community. This community is unabashedly welcoming of all learners and families. As a result, students develop life skills to become change-makers and social justice advocates through the lens of Jewish history, thought, and practice. Our Village also frequently engages parents to join their children in learning experiences both at the synagogue and at home. 

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Organization Name:

Congregation Beth Adam

Program Name:

Our Village

Location:

Loveland, Ohio

Program Website:

https://bethadam.org/youth-education/

Grades of Participants:

Pre-K, K-5, 6-8, 9-12, Intergenerational

Number of Participants:

26-50

Target Audience: 

Serves all populations

Schedule:

Program meets on Sundays from 9:30 am -12:00 pm

The Program Space:

At Our Village, classrooms become opportunities for exploration and adventure. Using color, pattern, art, music, inspirational quotes, museum-style exhibits, and artifacts, a vibrant space for learning is created. Curiosity is encouraged through interactive displays and inviting, open classrooms. Learners sit on bean-bag chairs or stand at workstations; each student chooses whatever works best for their learning style. Each classroom has its own feeling and focus and provides room for learning and growth in a highly creative, immersive environment. Even the hallways are learning spaces intentionally built and are full of lessons to be experienced. Our Village has a wellness room, a studio, a storytelling center, a creativity center, and an innovation space. They also have an outdoor classroom.

Staff

Our Village has 14 part-time educators, led by a full-time education director. Teachers at Our Village are referred to as “ Guides.” Guides are hired for their skills in specific subjects, but more importantly for their love of children. There are two types of guides at Our Village: “Wisdom Guides” are responsible for the learning centers, curriculum and lessons. They are hand picked to teach what they love and are experts in their fields. “Trail Guides” travel with the students and are active participants in class, co-creating along with the students as partners in learning. They are also there to nurture and care for the students. Both types of guides are well trained and supported in their professional development.

Goals

  • To have our students and families love Judaism and feel loved by Judaism
  • To provide the best quality education they can receive anywhere.
  • To train teachers to be revolutionaries and leaders in education.

Guiding Values

At Our Village every day is guided by the following core values which speak to who they are as a school: 

1. Bold Judaism - Our Village is an extension of Congregation Beth Adam’s approach to Judaism; they embody the Beth Adam spirit of Bold Judaism, which incorporates an eight-point framework. The core beliefs and tenets include 1) being welcoming of all peoples, 2) questioning everything, 3) celebrating alongside all members of their community regardless of background or faith, 4) searching for one’s personal theological truth and knowing that ultimately, they are responsible for their own actions, 5) creating their own liturgy reflective of their modern understandings, 6) engaging community members of all ages in education, 7) giving their time and effort to repairing the world and engaging in acts of kindness, and 8) evolving as Judaism grows and responds to the modern world.

2. Fierce Kindness - By treating each other with fierce kindness they look to create the kind of community they wish to see in the world. They teach students to support one another, to value each other and every person’s contribution to the community. Welcoming diversity they seek to be inclusive of everyone. Every morning assembly at Our Village begins with T.H.I.N.K. Students are reminded to “think” before speaking, wondering: 1) Is what we are about to say True? 2) Is it Helpful? 3) Is it Inspiring? 4) Is it Necessary? and 5) Is it Kind? Learners are promised they will be known and unconditionally loved at Our Village.

3. Self-Reliance - Our Village seeks to prepare learners for the human experience of tomorrow; students are taught to shape the future rather than be passive recipients of it. Teaching the values of independence and personal autonomy, students are made to feel confident using their own voice and forming their own opinions. Learners study ethics and morality; they tackle difficult topics (at age-appropriate levels) and learn to advocate for themselves and those around them. Knowing that each person is ultimately responsible for their own actions, students are taught to take ownership of their decision-making and are provided with the tools to make good choices for themselves, their families, their friends and communities.

4. Critical Curiosity - Curiosity and creativity are highly encouraged at Our Village. By welcoming new ideas and approaches can students are prepared to become problem-solvers in the twenty-first century. They encourage students to examine the world around them; inviting more questions than answers. They seek to promote wonder and awe. Lessons are driven by student questions and encourage critical evaluation of the teachings offered. With deep respect for the past, they question the present and prepare for the future.

5. Caretaking - At Our Village it is taught that it is each persons' responsibility to look after the world around them and that everyone is obligated to be a caretaker of the land and of each other. Only through deep commitment to ecologically restorative practices, as well as social justice, can begin to repair the damage that has been done. Students explore how everything on this earth is interconnected- that human beings are dependent upon each other and the world itself, even that each person can influence and shape it. To be good stewards of the earth they must  must leave it better than they found it. The responsibility to future generations includes the imperative to bring healing to the earth, neighbors, and the stranger.

Origin Story

As a lifelong Jewish educator, the Director of Our Village envisioned a program that created powerful, joyful and engaging memories for our children. After reflecting on approaches that weren't working, changes were made in favor of a more immersive, learner-centered experience.

Creating Jewish Community

At the center of this orientation is the priority to create safe and courageous spaces for learners. Our Village’s communal approach to education is described by their name- it takes a village to educate and prepare a child for the world they will grow up in. Community members that can offer a specific skill or expertise are invited to teach, to design programming, and to create and build classroom spaces. Parents, grandparents, and friends are frequently seen walking the halls, putting up new exhibits, hanging new art works, planning new programs or organizing new community events. This is not just a village but "Our Village"; it is a shared, collective space to educate and build the Jewish people of tomorrow. Teacher-student relationships at Our Village are marked by deep bonds and support. The Guides craft meaningful, authentic relationships with students; making true connections that value the learners for who they are, letting them know they are safe and loved. Guides are also on their own Jewish journeys, and it is encouraged for the teachers to walk alongside the students as they embark on their own paths, exploring and learning together.

Creating Content-rich and Accessible Learning

Our Village follows the spiritual idea that Jewishness is a way of being in the world and infuses and raises up all aspects of a child's life.

Creating Values-Based Learning

Values are lived in their spaces and practices.

Creating Life-Relevant Learning

Staff models SEL and character education and surround students with loving bounded adults.