Educator Spotlight: How a Blizzard Brought Sefaria to Miami
Chani Richmond, a middle school teacher at Hebrew Academy RASG in Miami Beach, Florida, is one of twelve partner educators in Sefaria’s 2017-2018 School Partnership Initiative. An educator with 20 years of experience, Chani has spent that time exploring new educational technologies and experimenting with bringing innovations happening in general studies classrooms across the country into her Judaic Studies classroom. She credits a 2008 blizzard and the resulting Google slides presentation that she and her students worked on remotely together as her aha moment in which she came to truly understand the potential of collaborative online learning.
In her role as a partner educator in the Initiative, Chani has been experimenting with Sefaria in each of her sixth, seventh and eighth grade classrooms as a way to harness the power of a digital Torah database. When it came time for her eighth grade girls’ Halakhah unit on Kavod Habriyot (respecting God’s creations), a source-based unit with highly relevant real world applications, Chani knew that she wanted these messages to resonate with her students beyond the classroom.
The resulting project consisted of a research phase and an action phase. The research phase: to ensure her students had a strong grounding in the concept of Kavod Habriyot in Jewish texts, Chani had them find relevant texts, introduced to them by their Mercaz Halacha curriculum, on Sefaria by mining the library to select sources from across the canon. The students then compiled their chosen prooftexts into a source sheet, where they both explained what the sources meant in their own words and then connected them to a real world problem. The action phase: students were then tasked with making the lessons they gleaned from the sources actionable by picking a Jewish organization to work with that related to the texts they had studied. As the students engaged in Chesed with their chosen organizations, they documented the process and anchored it to their texts by adding pictures, videos and other such media to their source sheets.
Going One Step Further
At the end of this five week unit, students had a tangible deliverable in the form of their Sefaria source sheets, something they could point to as the culmination of their hard work. Hoping to magnify the impact of their Torah learned and Chesed done, Chani's students then opted to share their experience by making these source sheets public on Sefaria. Together, these source sheets currently have over 1,000 views — a fact that her students are extremely proud of. Most exciting to Chani is that, with this project, her students shifted from consumers of Torah to producers of Torah. In her words: “It’s an amazing thing. In the 21st century, kids can create Torah.”
To explore Chani’s 8th grade girl’s Kavod Habriyot source sheets, check out their public group on Sefaria. To learn how to get your class or organization set up as a group on Sefaria, follow this tutorial or reach out to our education department here.