Applying Studies in Experiential Education to the Classroom:

Focus on Brianna Spatz, a Graduate Student in The Davidson School

(Adapted by Dr. Janette Silverman, Outreach Director, The Davidson School)

Dialogue on Jewish Education from The Davidson School
Issue 1, Winter 2014

Last year, Brianna Spatz taught in a Hebrew school on the Upper West Side. This year, she took on a new type of teaching experience, an online course, even though she was apprehensive about the new medium. Through Gratz College's NEXT program for supplementary school teachers, she taught Experiential Education Strategies for the Classroom.

Although apprehensive about the new teaching experience at first, Ms. Spatz proved to herself how much she has learned in her second year at The Davidson School, where she is working toward her master's degree in Jewish Education. She took content from her Experiential Education concentration and combined it with her Pedagogy and Curriculum courses to create a completely new course focusing on using experiential education techniques for supplementary school educators. She said that "when people discuss experiential education, they are usually talking about informal, immersive environments like Jewish camps and youth groups." But Ms. Spatz knew that "experienced educators are learning how to incorporate experiential approaches and strategies into their lesson plans, enhancing the experiences of learners across the country."

She described the new course, writing that

[h]istorically, students in supplementary schools have spent much more time learning about how wonderful it is to be Jewish rather than experiencing the wonders of Jewish living and learning for themselves. The fact that most of us teach within the bounds of four walls can make it seem challenging to create genuine, impactful experiences for our students. However, there are MANY principles and components of experiential education that can be effective in the classroom. The intent of the course is to add a new level of vitality to lessons and classroom activities and to help teachers develop a practice toolbox full of skills to be taken back to their classrooms. 

Brianna Spatz is a graduate student at The Davidson School, working toward her MA in Jewish Education.