Friday, February 27, 2015

Beijing Science Teachers' NJ Visit to RYNJ, Fair Lawn, and Ridgewood

After the American Liaison to the Beijing Institute of Education, Doris Pokras, visited RYNJ this fall, she contacted me about visiting RYNJ with 17 of Beijing’s best science teachers during a four week trip to see best schools in the US.  I coordinated their visit to Bergen County schools.  They visit RYNJ this week and we hosting them for a one day science conference and classroom visits.  

This Tuesday, February 24th their team came to RYNJ to engage in three sessions. The first session focused on having teachers build a satellite and in doing so, answer the question, “how do GPS systems work?” Through engaging in this activity, teachers were able to learn more about sound waves and basic physics. Utilizing the approach of learning through doing, the teachers were simultaneously learning about one of the most innovative concepts in science education today, the Maker Movement.   They then discussed the real world application of this Maker Movement activity to a classroom.  Our RYNJ teachers do this project in the spring with the 5th grade.  Chinese teachers teach physics in elementary, middle, and high school as well.  Next, teachers worked collaboratively using RYNJ and Columbia University writing methodology to enhance the way lab reports are utilized in science classrooms.  They watch a demo of a powder investigation our 3rd graders do and created templates for innovative writing assignments around the activity.  The third session, run by Elle Barkin from Fair Lawn, consisted of engineering related inquiry based science approaches where teachers were able to generate their own hypothesis and create experiments to solve it involving building towers out of pasta and marshmallows.  

Our science coordinator, Penina Richman helped plan the event with our two educational technologists, Rabbi Efraim Clair and Rabbi Dov Hochbaum.  Ron Durso, the Supervisor of Science at Fair Lawn School District was key in help running the conference and came to present about the recent focus of Engineering on science education in NJ state science standards.  He also ran one of the three mini sessions.  Fair Lawn also brought four science teachers to attend.  RYNJ teachers worked collaboratively with Beijing teachers and Fair Lawn teachers on these science related projects and discuss implementation of new science techniques in the classrooms both here and in Beijing.  Rabbi Horn, the principal of Judaic Studies for the elementary school had lunch with them to discuss the importance of time management in curricular instruction.

Tuesday afternoon their team visited Fair Lawn Memorial Middle School.  There they got to see science courses, a dynamic math course that incorporates STEM subjects together, and a Chinese language class.  They spoke with the teachers afterwards about new initiatives, like the next generation science standards and how they are affecting Fair Lawn schools.  Teachers from China spoke about how small American classes were and asked questions about group based learning.  It was a very great collaborative day!

On Thursday, after they spent the morning at Ridgewood with Tara Taylor's terrific science team visiting classes and speaking with teachers, they came back to RYNJ to visit our classes, speak with Cindy Wiesel about blended learning, and participate in a Q and A about American teaching.   We were so proud of our 8th grade boys who actually spent time rehearsing beforehand and then spoke to the teachers in Chinese!  It was another great day of learning and a wonderful experience for all involved.