SPRINGFIELD – The Sandi Kupperman Learning Center (SKLC) of Temple Beth El is offering an alternative for today’s busy young Jewish students – online weekly religious school classes.
This online program is open to any 5th and 6th grade students and is geared to those who cannot attend in-person classes because they live too far away, have other after-school activities, or are unaffiliated with any local synagogue.
“Technology has transformed our lives – at work and at play, and Jewish learning is no exception,” said Caryn Resnick, director of SKLC. “The students learn together in a fun and engaging way through their computers or tablets, and study the Torah (and other Judaic texts), Jewish holidays, Jewish values, mitzvot, Jewish traditions, and Israel, through the Shalom Learning curriculum. The students attend a one-hour class every Sunday evening with an experienced teacher using video conferencing so students can see and hear each other and their teacher.”
Last year the school’s entire 5th and 6th grade classes took part in the online program. “The feedback was so positive and well-received, by the students and parents that we continued it into this year,” Resnick said.
Fifth-graders participate in the online class from 6:30-7:30 p.m. on Sunday evenings, while the 6th graders go online from 7:30-8:30 p.m. All of them meet once a month – with their families – for a family havurah program. In September, the kids and their families went apple-picking, then came back to the synagogue to bake the apples. Other havurah activities will include field trips and social action projects.
Resnick stressed that the online classes are open to any 5th or 6th grade child, even those who don’t belong to Temple Beth El or any other local synagogue.
(Regular religious school classes at Beth El meet Monday and Wednesday afternoons. B’Yahad, the high school for 8th-12th graders, meets on Thursday nights from 6:30-8:30.)
SKLC piloted the Shalom Learning online program last year, Resnick said.
“The religious school sub-committee of the board of education has spent time researching schools that have been identified with best practices in their afternoon religious school. And looking to meet our families where they are, we wanted to try something that worked with flexible schedules for the family, utilized technology and had a values-based curriculum that was very relevant to our students’ lives, and which offers a family component – engaging the parent and the child,” Resnick explained.
The curriculum, Shalom Learning, is a new one being used around the country, that combines values-based curriculum with the use of technology.
“What is exciting is that this is for students wherever they are – home, a hotel room, on vacation – as long as they have a device, they can take this class. And it is a class with their teacher and their classmates,” Resnick explained. “It is online learning but it is independent. When they go on-screen they are in class with their teachers and their classmates.”
Resnick said the response to the online program has been overwhelmingly positive.
“To respond to our childrens’ hectic schedules with all of their extracurricular activities, and to try to make scheduling a little more flexibile for the modern family, the families voted and unanimously chose Sunday nights,” she said. “They felt that during the week their children are so inundated with homework that by Sunday night the homework is done and the children are relaxed. They are telling us their children are excited to get to their Hebrew school time on their computer.”
Contact SKLC’s office for more information or to register at (413) 737-0170, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Late registrations are accepted.