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entries tagged with: Robin Wexler


U.S., Israeli educational partners come together to teach and to learn

When six educators from Nahariya came to town last week — teaching lessons about Chanukah (and, in two cases, math and geography) in each of six Bergen County day schools and 10 congregational schools — they shared their excitement and special skills with more than a thousand students.

Local educators were equally inspired, said Pamela Ennis, education coordinator of Partnership 2000 for UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey. The project’s twinning program connects local Jewish schools with their counterparts in Nahariya.

“Our schools are just grateful that the program exists,” said Ennis. “The feedback has been unbelievable, especially from congregational schools. It’s a way to tie their students to modern Israel. “

Through educational collaborations such as letter, project, and bulletin board exchanges, Web-conferencing, and blogging, the five-year-old program has “made Israel relevant, real, and exciting for our students in a way that movies, stories, or books never could.”

A typical year for the program includes three exchanges, said Ennis, with educators from Nahariya coming here in the fall and northern New Jersey teachers visiting Israeli schools in the spring. The Israel Teachable Moments program — which brings 10 local educators to Israel during the summer — creates close relationships between teachers and “gives all the teachers a knowledge base [enabling them] to see things in Israel through educational eyes.”

Ennis paraphrased a local congregational principal, who told her that “kids generally think of Israel as Abraham and camels, or as a place where war happens. This kind of connection, getting to know and see kids the same ages, shows them a modern, thriving community. It helps them attach to Israel.”

In addition to teaching, the six Israeli teachers and principals who came to Bergen County Dec. 3 to 10 joined northern New Jersey educators at a professional development program at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Manhattan. Led by community shaliach Stuart Levy, the morning focused on interpreting the relationship between Israel and world Jewish communities. Local families provided home hospitality for the Israelis on Shabbat.

Ennis said the week’s activities — which included a tour of local synagogues and culminated in a reception for all Partnership educators at the home of Glen Rock Jewish Center Principal Rachel Blumenstyk — included two videoconferences, one at Englewood’s Moriah School and one at Temple Emanuel of the Pascack Valley in Woodcliff Lake. The conferences, linking Israeli and American schools in a joint Chanukah celebration, reflect the increased use of technology in the program, she said.

Robin Wexler, associate principal at Moriah, called the videoconference based at that school a “trivia, math, Chanukah celebration — unbelievably exciting.” She pointed out that Israeli students returned to their school at 5 p.m., their time, to participate in the event.

Ennis said that, for the first time, the visiting Israeli educators also participated in Super Sunday, making phone calls to local Israelis. “It was an experiment and it was very successful,” said Ennis. “It helped the Israeli teachers gain an understanding of what we do to raise money for these programs, and it made them feel connected to the community.”

According to Wexler, her students had so much fun in the classes led by the Israeli teachers, “they didn’t realize they were learning.”

She said that Efrat Saar, a fourth-grade teacher at Nahariya’s Rambam School, taught a Moriah math class and, later, led a professional development session for teachers on methodology in math education.

Polling her students afterward, Wexler received comments such as, “I thought that we were just playing a game. I didn’t realize that what Morah Efrat was working on was really math.” Said another student, after a videoconference, “I loved that we could talk to the children in Nahariya and work on the same activities. It was way better learning together than just being in class.”

In addition, said Wexler, who participated in the Israel Teachable Moments program this summer, one of her teachers — who attended Saar’s staff development workshop — wrote later that “it was fantastic being able to see the way math is taught in Israel, and the excitement on all of the teachers’ faces being able to bring this directly back to our kids.”

Wexler said Moriah has been making good use of its videoconferencing equipment, allowing her students to take part in Hebrew language lessons in Israel with a teacher who had worked for four years at the Englewood school.

“We use the equipment every day,” she said. “Technology is taking off in leaps and bounds. It broadens the expanse of our students’ education.”

Wexler is also working with teachers in Nahariya to create problem-solving math activities for the two schools.

“We send solutions back and forth,” she said.

She noted that when Saar taught the fourth-grade class at Moriah, she brought with her a scrapbook of math games in Hebrew and English, prepared in Israel.

“As our kids get new skills, they’ll be able to play the games,” said Wexler. In addition, she noted, the Moriah and Rambam schools will start teleconferencing chess games. She said that Saar, who brought the school “a beautiful marble chess set” from Israel, played a game with the Englewood chess club.

Wexler said that during their visit, the Israeli teachers also watched Moriah students present a Chumash play in Hebrew and were given student projects to bring back to Israeli third- and fourth-graders.

“We’re hoping to continue the partnership,” she said. “I love the interdisciplinary nature” of the program, integrating “different subjects and different media, in both Judaic and secular studies.”

“Obviously, attempting to create and foster meaningful bonds between people who live 6,000 miles apart is no easy task,” reads UJA-NNJ publicity for the P2K program. “However, with five years of experience under our belts, we are now able to report that it is possible, and when it works, the results are striking.”


Invention Convention 2012

Moriah 4th graders get creative for annual event

Abigail Klein LeichmanLocal
Published: 11 May 2012
(tags): robin wexler, moriah
Casey and Hilary with their wheelchair serving tray.

A musical pacifier, mittens and gloves with tissue pockets, a cleat guard — all these nifty novelties and more were displayed by their fourth-grade inventors at The Moriah School of Englewood’s Invention Convention on April 24.

Starting just after the January break, teachers guided the 45 pupils, working in pairs or threes, in deciding on their inventions. They brainstormed a need collaboratively, thought of possible solutions, designed the solutions on paper, and then built prototypes, said Robin Wexler, associate principal for general studies in the Lower School.

“Throughout our exciting Invention Unit, we hope to have stimulated the imagination of our children, and provided a channel in which to unleash their creative juices,” Wexler said. “It is our role as educators to show students the importance of integrating reading, writing, math, art, science and technology skills, as well as to emphasize the significance of becoming creative, divergent, and independent thinkers.”

The unit included a variety of science labs with teacher Barbara D’Amico, where the children worked in groups to construct houses of sticks, roller coasters, glue, and catapults — which they were allowed to use to launch marshmallows in a “war” pitting girls against boys.

Alhough the event has been staged at the day school annually for 12 years, each successive one has featured additional enhancements.

This year, the Invention Convention included a dedicated display of Israeli inventions, inspired by an exhibit last year at Jerusalem’s Bloomfield Science Museum highlighting 45 of the best innovations from Israel. With technology teacher Nancy Miller, the pupils put together a graphic organizer showcasing these items, such as the Disk-on-Key and the Pythagoras solar window.

Miller also helped them make PowerPoint slides, including animated clips. “They start using PowerPoint in first grade,” she explained, “but every year I step up the skills and they learn more features.”

Miller and fourth-grade classroom teacher Lauren Adler produced a movie with narration ( showing the children’s progress along the way to the big night. “This way, parents were able to see the process on our website,” Miller said.

Compiling data, creating prototypes, and presenting findings in a wide assortment of projects have many educational benefits, Wexler said.

“Research has shown that the invention process encourages creativity, enhances self-image, and develops the skills of logical thinking and creative problem-solving,” she said.

“Inventing taught me that I am more creative than I thought I was,” says one child on the video. “My partner and I shared ideas, and were flexible with each other. I realized that it can be hard to compromise, but if you do, both people can be happy at the end.”

Another commented, “A really important thing I learned about myself is that I am not always right. Sometimes I got mad at myself for making a small mistake, but my partner helped me see that there’s always a way to work around it.”

Asked their favorite part of the inventing process, one student said it was building the prototype. “It was so cool seeing all the little pieces come together into one big invention. I was also able to be creative and messy, which was a lot of fun.”

Some of the fourth-graders expressed interest in becoming inventors when they grow up. “The Invention Convention inspired me and taught me all different ways to look at ordinary things,” one student related.

Andrew and Aaron (and Rone, not pictured) came up with this “magic door monitor” that lets visitors know if they can enter.
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