Ten years ago, experiential education was a learning tool featured mainly in summer camps. Today, it is recognized as an effective approach to Jewish education and has become a part of the curriculum in many day schools, synagogues, youth groups and of course camps. Experiential education attempts to bring learning alive through hands-on, authentic activities – the experiences of real life.
AJU’s Graduate Center for Education believes that among the many ways to learn, “experiential education” is incredibly powerful as it provides insights, understandings and techniques beyond traditional styles of education. Innovations in experiential education can provide a framework for the transformation of Jewish education in North America, particularly in the supplemental schools and the so-called “informal” settings of summer camp, youth groups and trips to Israel. AJU’s forward thinking graduate programs in education produce leaders with the knowledge, skills and creativity needed to bring new visions of education to life.
One such graduate is Becca Bodenstein (’07), who tells us that following graduation, her career as an educator, activist and entrepreneur exploded. Today, she is the Director of Jewish Life at the New Community Jewish High School, where she teaches, Judaism and the Environment, and is responsible for both the school’s organic garden and their community supported agricultural program. Additionally, Becca runs the annual All School Shabbaton, a four-day, 500 person extravaganza held at the Brandeis-Bardin campus. For the rest of the year, Becca will also serve as Interim Director of the Jewish Learning Center for the Silverlake Independent Jewish Community Center while the current director is on maternity leave. She will supervise kindergarten through 4th grade in their Jewish Learning Center, and work with the teachers, organize speakers and create programming for celebrations for Sukkot, Havdallah and Hanukkah.
Becca’s leadership in bringing experiential education to Jewish learning is evident even beyond our own Jewish community. She was one of 15 people worldwide who helped create Jewcology.com, a web portal that brings major Jewish environmental organizations together to form the hub of Jewish environmental information. Currently, she produces her own blog on the site.
She often presents at conferences around the country and most recently, accepted the position of Co-Chair of a professional learning community made up of AJU’s Graduate Center for Education alumni who are interested in advancing experiential education. This is her calling, and Becca says that her focus and her work will always be where Judaism and nature are linked through experiential education.