Innovation Sensation!

Technological Advances Strike SDJA

By Ariela Moel (‘22)

 

Hidden below the old library area in the school’s A building secretly lies a little-known gem of  San Diego Jewish Academy. This beneficial learning environment boasts abundant technology and holds the key to innovation. What is this incognito luxury? The virtual reality lab! Even though it is relatively unknown now, students will soon become more familiar with the technological wonderland that SDJA has to offer. 

Mr. Kwaku Aning, director of the school’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurial Thinking (CIET), gave students new opportunities when his lab debuted in 2018, and again when he developed a new station located in the art room which followed it the next year. Both labs give students the ability to draw, create, and learn through artificial intelligence and augmented reality. Sophomore Rena Novom (‘22), has recently joined an art class in which she uses the VR. Rena mentions that VR lets her “manipulate the art form more than in a real-life situation.” 
VR Lab #1

Mr. Aning’s captivating VR Station, full of opportunities for SDJA’s students. Picture by Ariela Moel (‘22)

And this is only a small percentage of the enhancements SDJA has developed since the beginning of this school year. Other than the wonders which the virtual reality lab brings to the community, there have been other modifications made to the robotics team, classes added to the MS and HS curricula, and a newly established MS robotics program. As Jessie Gan (‘21), co-captain, along with Noah Katcher (’20), of the “7609 Lions” robotics team, mentions, the team has recently “taken advantage of the 3D printers.”  She notes that “now, more people on the team have those marketable 3D printing skills needed for our robotics use.”

Though unknown to many students, the VR labs are a school treasure. Whether it comes to building a 3D art model in Google Tilt Brush, an application made specifically for painting in new perspectives, or simply playing a game, students are allowed to see the unique window of high tech that is the VR.

Anyone interested in visiting one of the labs simply has to reach out to him. As Mr. Aning mentions, “We have several headsets (wired and wireless) and students can always email me if they would like to meet me during POD to try it out and explore how it works.”  

As if this VR station were not enough, Ms. Nebo has created a second VR lab, this one located in the art studio. When asked how it has improved SDJA’s art department, Ms. Nebo explains that “In the visual art class, we start off with a lot of paper and pencil and painting, kind of the more traditional art techniques and I think a lot of kids are intimidated by that because they don’t think of themselves as artists, and I feel like the VR gives them a different way to be able to express themselves.” With the implementation of the Occulus Quest, a type of VR headset, Ms. Nebo and her students have been able to benefit from the wireless technology.

VR Lab #2
Ms. Nebo’s new virtual reality headset which helps create student masterpieces. Picture by Ariela Moel (‘22)

Although virtual reality is exciting, it is not the only type of innovation at SDJA. “I think that when you challenge kids, you challenge students to try something new, and there’s a camaraderie that comes out of that,” says Mr. Marc Muroff, the AP Computer Science Principles teacher. When asked what innovations he has seen this year at SDJA, he responded, “I think SDJA offering two middle school programming classes and a full-year robotics class is very innovative.” Most people have generalized the word ‘innovation’ to be strictly technological, yet this isn’t so. As Mr. Muroff suggests, innovations can include allowing young students to take a leap into the world of experimental thinking in class and in the outside world.

The leaders in CIET have recently implemented a few new technologies at SDJA. After being asked about the upcoming projects or ideas for the school, Mr. Aning mentioned a new innovation center. “The plans are to create a space here on campus where students can conceive, create, and present new innovations in addition to incorporating these innovation skills into their school work,” he states.

Luckily, SDJA’s faucet of technology doesn’t stop running there. As well as the innovation center, there have been many new components in CIET. “I have seen a lot of amazing things this year!” Mr. Aning exclaims. “This include kindergarten students using AR to share their research about young activists with their parents, 5th-grade students using AI to develop adaptive solutions for people with disabilities, and high school students researching escape rooms to learn about film making, storytelling, and math,” 

The many opportunities that SDJA offers its students are nothing short of sensational. As Ms. Alicia Johal, CIET assistant director, mentions, “Teachers and students across campus have done some amazing work to embed innovative teaching practices into their curriculum. I have been excited by all of it – augmented reality experiences, virtual reality, robotics, creative video productions, podcasting, coding, and more!”

So many cutting edge additions to the school in such a short time confirm San Diego Jewish Academy as an authentic innovation sensation. As SDJA continues thinking creatively, the school community can look forward to even more progress and improvements in the near future. Stay tuned!

 

It’s a Family Affair

An inside look at the SDJA family through the eyes of new teachers

By Ella Diamond (‘20) and Sammi Weiss (‘23)

 

It’s 2:00 pm on a Friday. There are still 45 minutes left to go in Rabbi Frank’s senior seminar class, but instead of staring at the clock waiting for the weekend to start, the entire senior seminar class sits engrossed in a debate about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

Rabbi David Frank, the new Chief Rabbi at the San Diego Jewish Academy, incorporates heated debates into his teaching style–a technique that has proven beneficial for students at SDJA. One reason Rabbi Frank accepted his position at SDJA was because he wanted to teach in this inclusive manner that allows students to feel at home. Why? Because SDJA is not just a school but a family that prides itself on making students feel this way, even in the classroom. 

“The administration puts their heart into what they’re doing,” Rabbi Frank says, sharing an insight he learned from having watched all three of his children go from kindergarten through 12th grade here. Coming to work here gave him the feeling of a homecoming, allowing him to find his place in the SDJA family once more.

Rabbi Frank (Jan 2020)

Rabbi Frank pauses from planning the school’s weekly Kabbalat Shabbat. 

Photo: Sammi Weiss (‘23)

Rabbi Jacobson, another new face in the Judaica department, also came to SDJA because of the family feel. She has taught at several day schools across the country but none of them, she says, are like SDJA. “This is the first school [where I’ve been] that encourages students to ask questions,” Rabbi Jacobson says, recalling the Jewish values she grew up with, which encourages curiosity. She believes that by asking many questions, students feel a part of the teaching process and are encouraged to take a greater interest in their learning. 

Rabbi Jacobson (Jan 2020)
Rabbi Jacobson preparing to answer her students’ questions during POD. 

Photo: Ella Diamond (‘20) and Sammi Weiss (‘23)

Other fresh faces at the school include Mr. David Sered, the newest history teacher and his daughter, Ms. Allie Sered, a teacher’s assistant in the Golda Meir Lower School. This father-daughter pair have really taken the idea of SDJA as a family to heart. Mr. Sered explains that, “everybody here is very much a part of the community, and people are invested in each other.” Compared to the other schools where he has previously taught, including a Catholic school in Los Angeles, Mr. Sered appreciates the fact that SDJA is open to using conversational methods in the classroom; he believes that giving the class a sense of freedom allows students to feel heard and pushes them to learn even more.  

David Sered & Ally Sered (Jan 2020)

The fabulous father-daughter duo, Mr. David Sered and Ms. Allie Sered. 

Photo: Ella Diamond (‘20) and Sammi Weiss (‘23)

Similarly, Dr. Perry Strahl, the school’s newest resident mathematics expert, has also found the tight-knit family environment at SDJA to be “super friendly.” Coming from UCSD where he taught in a huge lecture hall filled with over 400 students, Dr. Strahl feels like the small classes here are a breath of fresh air. He appreciates the school’s “resources and motivated student body,” because they allow him to truly pass on his knowledge and help students with their individual needs. After only one semester of classes, he says, SDJA already feels like home. 

Perry Strahl (Jan 2020)

The smiling Dr. Strahl at home in his element.  Photo: Sammi Weiss (‘23)

Regardless of where the new teachers came from, or how they got here, all agree that they have found comfort within the walls of SDJA. This can only happen in a school like SDJA; not the school, the family.