The Leo Baeck Day School Students Tackle Real-World Challenges

When it comes to solving a math problem, interpreting the news or learning about the Jewish religion, students at The Leo Baeck Day School are encouraged to ask questions.

The value of asking questions lies not in the answers received, but in the process of getting there. “Good” answers are gained through hard work: research, critical thinking, analysis, reflection and collaboration help to gain multiple viewpoints. 

Here’s a sample of some of the questions Leo Baeck students ask, and the important critical thinking skills they acquire in the process. 

 

“How accessible are our facilities?”

 

First graders posed this question after meeting with Luke Anderson, founder of the StopGap Foundation.

After conducting accessibility audits of the Oakwood Village Library and of our own school, they wrote letters to our Head of School and Board of Directors with suggestions for improvements to our facilities.

They proposed installing a StopGap ramp at the entrance to our school’s Chapel, the spiritual and community hub of our school.

 

 

Grade 1 students wrote letters addressing recommendations for accessibility improvements

 

 

“How can we be healthier and contribute to the health of others?”

Kindergarten asked this after learning about hunger and access to healthy food in our local community. They began to tackle this problem by planting seeds at a nearby community garden and then harvesting and delivering their vegetables to a food bank. 

 

 

Preschoolers tend to their crops at Kavanah Gardens

 

 

These enterprising preschoolers created a cookbook with their favourite recipes in order to raise funds for the cost of the seeds and care of the plants they grew.

Shoresh, a local environmental organisation and Ve’ahavta, a humanitarian organisation, lent their Jewish and social justice-based expertise to our preschoolers’ budding understanding of the complex issues of poverty and food security.

 

“How can Mathematics solve problems in our world?”

 

This is the driving question behind every unit of study in our Grade 4 to 6 Math and Science program. Here are a few examples of the questions that shape each unit:

 

“How does the environment impact the design of human structures?”

 

Last year, Grade 6 students considered the impact of force and natural phenomena on structures and were challenged to build model homes that could withstand simulated forces within challenging landscapes.

 

 

Miriam Toste’s Grade 6 students test their structures against simulated natural forces

 

 

During the design process, students inquired into current events, such as the floods in New York, Japan, and Houston, and made deep connections about a person’s right to live in a structure that is safe and appropriate for their environment. 

 

“Do Torontonians have equitable access to healthy food?”

 

Grade 5 students in Miriam Toste’s classroom are currently applying their data-management and measurement skills to map local food deserts, i.e. areas that do not have access to affordable produce.

 

 

Grade 5 students are mapping Toronto’s food deserts

 

 

Students are plotting the grocery stores and community gardens around our school on classroom maps and researching local responses to this issue, including participating in a community garden and considering the Judaic approach to land and ownership.

 

What do these questions all have in common? They address real world concerns.

 

When students are given the chance to ask questions that relate to authentic problems, framed in terms they can relate to, they will be driven by passion and excitement as they tackle those questions. 

When their explorations are guided by progressive Jewish values, students understand their responsibilities to one another, and what it takes to enact those responsibilities in the wider world. Through this process, young people discover who they are, as citizens of the world and as modern Jews.

 

 

IRIS GLASER is the Director of Marketing & Communications at The Leo Baeck Day School. She brings her passion for branding and creative direction to her role as the storyteller for Canada’s first Jewish IB World school.

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