This year’s freshman class of 2018 wasn’t waiting for today’s technology boom – in 2000, they were born into it. By first grade, nearly all of them knew how to “finger swipe” a cell phone before they Even mastered the proper way to hold a pencil.

It’s for this reason, says our Director of 21 Century Learning and Teaching Dr. Rochelle Green, that more than any other generation, high school students today think holistically. With infinite knowledge at their fingertips, they glean the knowledge they seek from a constant barrage of information encountered on multiple devices at once.

Asking these students to then enter the classroom, put away all their devices and compartmentalize information into eight separate subjects creates a disconnect between school and students’ everyday lives. To continue teaching today’s students for tomorrow requires new ideas and new tools.

Thanks to Dr. Green, the Academy staff and administration is “thinking big” about creating new ways to prepare our students for university and careers in the 21st century. Dr. Green joined the Academy last fall after serving as division dean, program professor and STEM coordinator at Nova Southeastern University for over 20 years. During that time she started the Jewish Educators’ Program where she customized educational programs for Jewish day schools.

With students able to access so much information easily, the job of teachers today, says Dr. Green, is “to focus on less content but teach at a deeper level so that students are more thoroughly able to synthesize information.”

The skills most important to impart upon today’s students are how to be creative, collaborative and communicative. They need to be able to think “glocally”–globally and locally, be able to solve problems and develop models for thinking.

For years, staff and administration have been working to enhance STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) learning at the Academy through our Strategic Plan. The need for a new administrator to focus on STEM became apparent as part of our Strategic Plan 2.0. With Dr. Green on board, we launched many exciting initiatives. Just this year, Dr. Green accomplished the following:
• A weekly seminar for staff, based on the courses in pedagogy she taught at Nova
• Staff professional development to use their strengths to improve the classroom by utilizing 21st century skills, self-assessments and peer reviewing
• Taught our first STEM course to seniors

Next year, Dr. Green plans to introduce problem-based learning where the entire school works on one problem, such as local water pollution. Solving the problem would take a varied skill set, including: science, math, engineering, thinking and writing skills, along with knowledge of history.

Much of the collaboration between subjects and students that we plan to implement will come more naturally with our move next year. That space will have better technology, learning pods and collaborative areas more conducive to today’s learning needs.

And yet, regardless of our curriculum developments in the future, our mission remains the same. While we may be preparing our students for a world in which our founders never could have dreamed, we continue to build phenomenal Jewish citizens who succeed in our modern world.

That being said, Dr. Green says, “This is a work in progress. The world our kids are headed into is going to be continually evolving. The careers and skill sets are constantly changing and this generation of kids has to be dynamic.”

She also says, “It is a great honor to take a school already so established with so many phenomenal educators and then get to tweak it into 21st century learning.”

Dr. Green says throughout the year, she smiled on the way to work. “It’s like having the brightest class I’ve ever taught. I’m just so grateful to be here.”