As our school and community begin to gently ease itself slowly back to that elusive thing we once knew as “normal”, I am very pleased to share that we have completed the “Makerspace Consultancy” that I had announced earlier in the year, and that we are gearing up to finally establish the Makerspace (built with a gift from the Congregation Beth Shalom Legacy Fund) as the hub of innovation for OJCS that it was designed to be.
Thanks to a generous grant by the Jewish Federation of Ottawa‘s Fund for Innovative Capacity Building, OJCS worked with Future Design School over the balance of this school year on a strategic makerspace consultancy. The OJCS Makerspace Design Team included Josh Ray, our Middle School Science Teacher, Faye Mellenthin, our Grade 4 General Studies Teacher, Mike Washerstein, a Middle School Jewish Studies and Grade 6 Language Arts Teacher, and was headed up by Melissa Thompson, our Teaching & Learning Coordinator (and Grades 7 & 8 LA Teacher). This was to ensure that the principles, the units, the standalone lessons, etc., cut across grades and languages and will allow us to not only build content that we can use right away, but to build capacity that we can use to develop curriculum and programming into the future.
We had our final meeting last week and received one of our deliverables – a slide deck that I am going to cherry-pick from below. In a truly post-COVID world, we would have scheduled one of our World Famous OJCS Town Halls and presented there. And we still may in the future, but for now, let my blog be the platform for sharing out the amazing work our team of teachers did in collaboration with our wonderful partners at Future Design School.
What were the goals?
What wound up being our “guiding principles”?
How do we get there?
How will we try to do this?
How about our students?
How will we do this?
When will all of this begin?
The Makerspace Design Team – who I cannot thank enough for their time, commitment and passion – and I will be meeting during the Spring so that we bring all this excitement, creativity and innovation to life next school year, if not sooner.
As enrollment continues to come in – and thank you to the many, many parents who re-enrolled on time, and welcome to the many new families joining our OJCS Family for 2022-2023 – the relaunch of the OJCS Makerspace will help move our school that much closer to our North Stars and make learning that much more motivating and engaging for our students. We can’t wait to see what our students invent and create! And, yes, say it with me, this too is very much #TheOJCSDifference.
Do you want your child to benefit from all that an OJCS education provides? It isn’t too late! Please contact our Admissions Director, Jennifer Greenberg (firstname.lastname@example.org) to set up a tour today!
Again, for the second week in a row, I am tempting the fates by assuming that we have entered a period of somewhat normalcy and, again, hoping to avoid a jinx. This week, it is to announce an exciting consultancy we have launched at OJCS that will – finally – allow us to truly roll out the Makerspace as it was originally intended to be. Do you remember way back in March 2019, when we announced that thanks to a generous gift from the Congregation Beth Shalom Legacy Fund, that we were going to take on our first major project to make our physical space as innovative as our educational program – namely designing and constructing the OJCS Makerspace?
It feels like a lifetime ago! After design, came construction and after construction came furnishing and timing being everything, you may recall that it took until about a full calendar year later, January of 2020, that we were finally able – even though there were (are!) still some design elements and furnishings not yet in place – to begin using the Makerspace. That means that by the time Middle School Science relocated to their new space, we had about a month or so of contact time and then…COVID. Thanks to COVID we either could not use the space at all or had such limitations on its usage due to safety protocols that its functionality was severely compromised. Long story short…we built this amazing space and still haven’t had much of an opportunity to use it the way that it was designed.
But that’s about to change…
Knowing that for 2021-2022 we could return to the “soft launch” of the space, and believing that in 2022-2023 we ought to be able to officially launch, we decided to engage a consultancy to ensure that we wind up using the space in the best possible way. And so I am pleased to share that thanks to a generous grant by the Jewish Federation of Ottawa‘s Fund for Innovative Capacity Building, OJCS will be working with Future Design School over the balance of this school year on a strategic makerspace consultancy.
What will we be doing?
Well, as was the case with our last two consultancies, we have identified a small cohort who will work with Future Design School to…
Create a statement of principles, in collaboration with the OJCS team, that defines what the makerspace at OJCS is focused on, and how it will be leveraged.
Provide scaffolded support to the Middle School Science teacher and two other teachers to develop an approach for designing lessons to be delivered in the makerspace.
Provide recommendations in a final summary from consultancy on next steps to be taken with all teachers to integrate the use of the makerspace into their lessons.
The OJCS Makerspace Design Team will include Josh Ray, our Middle School Science Teacher, Faye Mellenthin, our Grade 4 General Studies Teacher, Mike Washerstein, a Middle School Jewish Studies and Grade 6 Language Arts Teacher, and will be headed up by Melissa Thompson, our Teaching & Learning Coordinator (and Grades 7 & 8 LA Teacher). This ensures that the principles, the units, the standalone lessons, etc., cut across grades and languages and allows us to not only build content that we can use right away, but to build capacity that we can use to develop curriculum and programming into the future.
We have our first meeting next week and we will share results and updates as they start to happen. Not only can we not wait to start using the Makerspace to its fullest potential, we also cannot wait to show you all that it can do and be. Maybe even in person! Stay tuned.
There is some irony (that may not be the best word) that COVID-19 delayed our official grand opening of the OJCS Makerspace (with generous support from the Congregation Beth Shalom of Ottawa (CSBO) Legacy Endowment Fund), and that the OJCS Makerspace has yielded our school’s first significant contribution to the community’s response to COVID-19. We had softly opened the space prior to pivoting to distance learning while furniture and equipment were still coming in, but our official grand opening had to be indefinitely postponed. This week, however, we got a firsthand look at what having a makerspace for our students can mean for their learning and for our community.
The Talmud (Kiddushin 40b) describes a debate about whether the study of Torah leads to action or whether action leads to the study of Torah, and like most talmudic debates, the answer is, of course, “yes”. At the Ottawa Jewish Community School, we deliberately create experiences and learning holistically. Our Jewish learning and values inspire us take action to repair the world and our engagement in the world inspires us to further our Jewish learning. This project is a wonderful embodiment of this idea in practice.
Going back a number of weeks, a parent and frontline healthcare professional, Dr. Joanne Tannebaum, came to us with an idea. A colleague of hers had worked out a design for 3D-printing face shields and “ear-savers” and she wanted to know if we wanted to participate. We talked it through, brought in our Middle School Science Teacher Josh Ray, and decided that the most logical partnership for our Community School would be the Bess and Moe Greenberg Family Hillel Lodge, our community’s Jewish Home for the Aged. I reached to their CEO, Ted Cohen, and with his enthusiastic support and partnership, we were on our way!
The next step was to host a meeting between our Middle School, Dr. Tannenbaum and the leadership from Hillel Lodge to officially launch our project for producing PPE for their frontline healthcare workers through our school’s 3D printer. During that meeting, our students got a chance to hear firsthand about the importance of PPE and were given both a design challenge (How can we make face shields and surgical masks more comfortable?) and a practical challenge (How will we create, assemble and deliver the final product?).
Mr. Ray went ahead and safely retrieved our school’s 3D printer from the Makerspace, gathered supplies, recruited student volunteers and the work began!
The easier of the two to produce is the ear-saver:
This item helps anyone who has to wear a surgical mask or face shield relieve the pressure off their ears. You loop your mask on the appropriate notch and voilà – your ears are spared. This one is easily printed, comes in lots of colours, and our students have even managed to personally inscribe messages.
Why does this work matter? Let’s see what Mr. Ray has to say:
For me, this project is so important for many reasons. It teaches students 21st century skills like 3D modeling, while connecting the importance of community and empathy at the same time. I think everyone is always looking to serve, and give back wherever possible. The need for PPE in the community has provided both the students and I that opportunity. I’m so proud of the commitment and character shown from the group of students that volunteered their own time to get involved.
The face shields were a little more complicated. Because we have a smaller-sized 3D printer, it took some time, research and trial-and-error to find a program that allowed us to print plastic to hold a full-sized shield. But Mr. Ray and team eventually figured it out and we are thrilled that we can now deliver these to Hillel Lodge.
Our first (there will be more!) delivery took place on Wednesday, June 17th and it was wonderful have a couple of our Grade 8 students – Talia C. and Jessica A. – join me, Mr. Ray, Ted Cohen, Karin Bercovitch, CFO and Morag Burch, Director of Nursing to commemorate the occasion.
What is the impact of this project? Let’s see what Mr. Cohen has to say:
All long-term care homes including the Bess and Moe Greenberg Family Hillel Lodge has a critical responsibility to keep our residents safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Personal Protective Equipment such as face-shields and masks are vital to protecting our residents and staff during this pandemic. We are grateful for the strong partnership we have with the Ottawa Jewish Community School and for their assistance creating face-shields and masks extenders for our front-line workers. This innovative initiative is not only an educational experience for the students but provides our team with vital supplies. We are thankful for the assistance we’ve received and look forward to continuing to develop our partnership.
At the end of the day, this is an example of what it means to live our values, to reach towards those North Stars. I cannot think of a better way to express what it means when “We own our own learning,” and then make sure that “We are each responsible one to the other”. I know that it is easy to reduce things to slogans and hashtags (guilty as charged), but slogans and hashtags are meaningful when they serve as both reminders and catalysts.
So, what does it mean when we say #WhenTorahLeadsToAction? Let’s ask Talia:
It was such a meaningful experience for me to be able to help my community in a time of crisis. It always feels good to give back to the Jewish Community, and be a part of something bigger.
What does it mean when we say #TheOJCSDifference? Let’s ask Jessica:
Over the years, Hillel Lodge has provided me with so many life lessons and experiences that have enriched me as a person. Since kindergarten I have been involved with Hillel Lodge therefore, I wanted to give back to a place that has so much significance in my life.
Thanks to everyone at OJCS and Hillel Lodge who played a role in bringing this partnership and project to life! Let our next innovative collaboration be inspired by health and joy…
As we announced last year, thanks to the generosity of the Congregation Beth Shalom Legacy Fund, we were going to take on our first major project to make our physical space as innovative as our educational program. Or rather, we are now able to think about designing spaces that will best allow the unique vision OJCS has for teaching and learning to best come to life. [With a building as “seasoned” as ours, we don’t lack for options!] We intend to completely redo our “computer lab” and transform it into a tech-friendly collaborative workspace. We intend to completely redo our “library” and transform it into a 22nd century media literacy center. Etc. But we have decided to lead with a makerspace. Why? Glad you asked!
Although more and more schools have invested in makerspaces, it is still rare enough that it is okay if you are asking yourself an obvious question: What is a makerspace?
Makerspaces are popping up in schools across the country. Makerspaces provide hands-on, creative ways to encourage students to design, experiment, build and invent as they deeply engage in science, engineering and tinkering.
A makerspace is not solely a science lab, woodshop, computer lab or art room, but it may contain elements found in all of these familiar spaces. Therefore, it must be designed to accommodate a wide range of activities, tools and materials. Diversity and cross-pollination of activities are critical to the design, making and exploration process, and they are what set makerspaces and STEAM labs apart from single-use spaces.
When you think about many of the exciting prototypes in play this year at OJCS – Genius Hour, VR, 21st Century Judaica, Robotics, Blogs, Recreating Biblical Artifacts and QR Codes for Art Projects, just to name a very few – they share one feature in common. They all require our students (and teachers) to make something. These are all learning prototypes that include or result in a tangible (including digital or virtual) product. They are also projects that are both cross-curricular and collaborative. A classroom is not always designed to house learning of this kind. Our school needs a place where students can come as a class or in teams or on their own to be inspired. Our school needs a place where teachers can come with students or in their own teams or on their own to be inspired. Our school needs a learning commons designed as a hub of creativity. Our school needs an incubator of innovation. Our school needs a makerspace.
And so the work has begun! Our first step was to identify a partner to bring our dreams to life. We interviewed a few architecture firms, but found in our new friends Ryan and Wendy, from Project1 Studio, a partner who brings enthusiasm, creativity and expertise to the work. Our next step, which was this week, was to convene a group of teachers, students and administrators for a “Visioning Session” to allow them to begin to identify the kinds of activities we believe should take place in our new OJCS Makerspace. What will be the right blend of…
movie-making equipment (green screens, sound mixing, movie editing equipment, etc.)
state of the art presentation space (TED Talk-style),
…activities, tools and zones to maximize our space and enhance energy and enthusiasm for learning at OJCS.
[Where is this space going to be located, you might be wondering (if you are an OJCS parent)?
We are working with the footprint of our current Science Lab and adjoining offices. That gives us about a 1,300 square foot space to play with, but it does require that we factor in our current Science needs within the design.]
Once we settle on our priorities, we will move to design. From design we move to furniture and fixtures and from there we move to construction itself. Our current schedule has us breaking ground in July and on target for a grand opening on the very first day of the 2019-2020 school year!
It will be our pleasure to share out designs as they come in and it would be our pleasure to show any current or prospective families the spaces we are discussing. Although we know the building isn’t the most important factor in a quality education, we also know that the right kinds of spaces can have a meaningful impact on the educational experience. We are proud at OJCS to be creating innovative spaces to match our innovative program. It is just another example of how OJCS is becoming an educational leader in our community.
This is not a flashback! We are not reminding you of the “innovation gift” we previously received. Nope. This is to let you know that we are beyond excited to share with you that the Ottawa Jewish Community School has just received a $72,000 grant (over two years) from the Congregation Beth Shalom of Ottawa (CBSO) Legacy Fund to help ensure that the innovation work begun this year will only be the foundation upon which the continued work of innovation will build in the years to come. We are grateful to the CBSO Legacy Fund for the opportunity to apply and even more grateful to be amongst the worthy recipients of their philanthropy.
Success begets success. Numbers beget numbers. A school in motion will stay in motion. This is what having a great year feels like. And it couldn’t have happened to a nicer 69 year-old Jewish day school in Ottawa…I am genuinely so happy for the teachers, parents, volunteers, board, donors, supporters and the community at large to have had this year happen as it happened. The narrative of decline is behind us; the narrative of rebirth, revitalization and rejuvenation has begun. You can measure it objectively through numbers – attrition down, enrollment up, survey data trends, fundraising dollars, etc. You can also measure it subjectively – feelings in the walls, word on the street, buzz in the community, etc. You can measure it however you like. The outcome is the same. The OJCS is laying the ground to become the innovative leader in education in our community.
What’s next up on our innovation agenda?
We have described and shared out the first phase of work with NoTosh. We will have a little more time with our NoTosh friends to bridge the gap into the next year to ensure that the culture of prototyping and design thinking takes hold and to set us up to steep in our core values (our “North Stars”).
Our second iPad cart is up and running.
We described the work we would be doing with my friend and former colleague Silvia Tolisano beginning in October, whose new book some of us (including me!) will be reading this summer.
We will be providing Chromebooks for all our faculty next year, with all the training and support they will need. This will be a huge step forward in terms of our ability to work and function as a complex organization.
We will be launching a new website.
We will be exploring new platforms for teaching and learning, sharing, blogging, etc., which may come to replace Google Classroom.
We will be thinking about what kinds of technologies we want our students to have and to use in the years to come.
We will launch new seminars on digital citizenship, cyberbullying, digital footprints, online identity, etc., etc., that will help our children live healthy and safe online lives aligned with our Jewish values.
What kinds of spaces will we need to do all this innovative work?
Transform our “Computer Lab” into an “Internet Café”
Our current “Computer Lab” is filled with obsolete computers and even more obsolete outlets, cords and wires. We need to empty the space altogether and replace it with a state-of-art presentation space, flexible furniture, hi-speed wifi, and space to park an iPad cart, laptop cart and other technology for students and teachers to use as needed.
Transform our “Library” into a “Media Literacy Center”
Our current “Library” consists of an old collection with even older furniture and technology. We need to upgrade to new library software so that it is searchable and useable by both teachers and families. We need to upgrade the collection. We need appropriate library furniture with an appropriate presentation space and technology section for conducting research in the 21st century. [Money raised from Grandparents’ Day is helping this begin to become true!]
Students own the learning at OJCS and that requires a space to make! We are ready to transition into an appropriate OJCS Makerspace that blends new technology (projection space, laptop, audio equipment, etc.,) with old (tools, crafts, etc.).
To which of the above will the blessing of this $72,000 grant go? We haven’t decided yet (and the CBSO Legacy Fund has given us the flexibility to decide). We have other donors ready to give and even more we need to inspire. [If you would like to be counted amongst those who might be ready or willing to be inspired, don’t be shy!] I look forward to more blog posts highlighting more gifts leading to more innovation. Success begets success. Numbers beget numbers. Innovation begets innovation.
This is a school in motion that intends to stay in motion.