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Powerful Learning in Alternative Spaces: Nassau County Museum of Art


On Sunday 19 educators experienced Jewish learning in alternative spaces. Most Jewish learning and living tends to take place in traditional places such as congregations (or more recently homes or volunteer events). This weekend Long Island congregations forged ahead and turned the Nassau County Museum of Art into an alternative space for meaningful Jewish learning and experiences. The art museum is located on a grand Long Island gold coast estate that set the stage for a beautiful and wonderful communal gathering.

The experience began simply in the parking lot as participants were asked to “pay attention” to the beautiful trees and outdoor sculpture gardens as a prelude to their experience in the museum.


The participants enjoyed a day of meaningful conversation and paying attention in a deep way to the art and to each other. A phenomenal exhibit by pop artist Peter Max framed the day. The exhibit was his first museum exhibition in New York and juxtaposed portfolios of his mostly black-and-white drawings on paper against many of his larger and more color-saturated works in a variety of media. Participant Rabbi Jodie Siff of Reconstructionist Synagogue of the North Shore commented,


It is always wonderful to be in a learning environment with our educational leadership team.  We were collectively modeling what it means to live and learn in our secular and religious civilizations as we explored the art museum with a Jewish lens.

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Beyond the opportunity to network and collaborate, educators were inspired to consider how planning learning in appropriate alternative locations can greatly enhance the exploration of content.  The peer consultancy groups of directors were able to delve into dilemmas of innovation and for our teacher groups to consider both the design principles for powerful learning – both how they enhanced the experience in the museum and how they could strengthen learning experiences they design for their learners.  Appreciating and envisioning how to use space and environment to deepen learning around a big idea was also explored.

Thanks to all the staff and to each participant who made the learning both powerful and enjoyable.

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