At Makom, we know that learning extends beyond the kvutzah (age cohort group), and much of our programming, such as Family Shabbat and our Showcases, are dedicated to just this. We aim to enable our learners to teach their families the rituals and values they experience at Makom so that they can choose what they want to bring to their families. One afternoon this fall, I noticed that an Anafim (5th-7th grade) learner was daydreaming during Tefillah and very suddenly, she started to follow along in her siddur while also patiently guiding a Garinim (PreK-1st grade) kiddo, who had been upset, to follow along with her. This inspired me to create more opportunities for cross kvutzah learning within the Jewish enrichment day. I landed on the research question:
How can we use Jewish learning across age groups to regulate behavior and build community among learners?
When investigating a research question, I begin with an intervention that occurs with learners during Jewish Enrichment which I then collect data on. In this case, the activity that I used to perform action research was the creation of a collective brit (two-way promise). In addition to each kvutzah (group) agreeing upon a brit, we made a collective brit that represents the promises all of Makom Community makes to one another. Two learners, from each kvutzah, PreK-7th grade, who showed particular interest in the brit building process were selected to meet. As a collective, they choose some items from each of their kvutzah brit to bring into our communal brit. When discussing why it would be useful to have one brit for all of Makom, one of the Anafim learners reflected that they all have unique experiences and knowledge from each kvutzah that could benefit the community by sharing.
Watching learners from ages five to twelve hold a diplomatic conversation, weighing out the pros and cons of each proposed line, demonstrated the educational and spiritual value of allowing learners across age groups to teach each other. This moment revealed another hallmark of Makom’s educational value. When we start learning for all ages at a high level and compensate for discrepancies by providing necessary accommodations, we challenge learners to adapt and learn by growing. With a few language modifications for the youngest learners, every learner was able to hold an intelligent conversation and bring their unique perspectives to the table. I am excited to continue to research this area and incorporate more moments of cross-age learning at Makom as the year continues.