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Powerful Learning in Alternative Spaces: A Walk in the Park for Living and Learning

By Cyd Weissman

On Sunday Manhattan Jewish educators and directors will be walking up the marble steps of the Museum of the City of New York to have a powerful learning experience…yes Jewish learning…with the Janet Ruttenberg exhibit of Central Park.

We'll be exploring an essential life skill for a Jewish journey that is--To pay attention...l'seem lev.

We’ll be exploring an essential life skill for a Jewish journey that is–To pay attention…l’seem lev.

Busy-ness, as we all know,  has a choke hold on people of all ages. This techno-high-achieving bully insists children and adults do and then do some more even faster. So without the art of paying attention young people might get lost, take a wrong turn or not recognize how far they’ve come. They might just have a filled in calendar without realizing what has passed and what is next.

As Jewish educators, our work has to be to support young people’s pause, questions and ability to see anew. This is the “new curriculum” of Jewish learning, not just the facts but the skills to navigate a life journey grounded in the richness of Judaism.

I love that Hebrew for pay attention is “seem lev,” put heart on.  Why do you think that is?

In my own life to pay attention I:

1. Sing niggunim: slow me down, catch my breath, remind  this moment is passing

2. Pray: something is bigger here than me…don’t forget it’s not all about you-which is contrary to what the guy at the Craps table told me in Atlantic City when I rolled the dice “its all about you”

3. Ask: so much a mystery. Do I bug people with my Barbara Walters questions?

4. Friend: I saw the Ruttenberg exhibit with Jessica. “Look see the word SEX written in the building?”  Nope missed that one, thanks Jessica.

The art gallery is ideal space to learn how we ourselves pay attention and then how we can help our students  do the same..”hey, put that thing down and look over here.”

How different will this experience be because we are in a space that insists you quiet down, look and look again? How would the same learning be in a classroom…in my mind…flat………..

Ruttenberg, a woman in her 80's, never exhibited her artwork until now. The 17 pieces at the Museum of The City of New York represent her return and return again to the same place, Central Park, each time seeing something different.

Ruttenberg, a woman in her 80’s, never exhibited her artwork until now. The 17 pieces at the Museum of The City of New York represent her return and return again to the same place, Central Park, each time seeing something different.

If we’re successful the educators will have a powerful experience that can inform their teaching.

They’ll have a chance to critique the day and answer: To what extent did we design a powerful day of learning? How could it have been better? They’ll critique the experience by asking if we created learning that 1) had relationships at the center; 2) enabled inquiry reflection and meaning making; 3) spoke to real life questions; and 4) was content rich and accessible (if you want the Bible texts for the colors red, purple, blue, white and green I can give them to you).

I’ll let you know how the day goes..we’re doing it again in a museum in Westchester and then Long Island. Powerful Learning in Alternative Spaces: A walk in the park..not so easy but hopefully worth paying attention to.

ruttenberg4

 

 

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