Professional Development for BIMA Community Educators

Jonah Rank, Avram Mlotek, and Lucy Motovilova in the Artists Beit Midrash for staff

Throughout their summer at BIMA, the community educators engage in significant professional development, both as a group and independently, in order to help them reflect on and learn from their work as educators at BIMA. During summer 2011, one of the main responsibilities of the community educators was to create and facilitate an “Artists Beit Midrash” (artists house of study) for the BIMA participants. To help them reflect on this piece of their work, their professional development included participation in a staff version of the Artists Beit Midrash (ABM). Facilitated by BIMA director, Rachel Happel, the staff ABM was designed to parallel the Artists Beit Midrash experience that the community educators were developing for the teen participants.

Like the participant ABM, the staff ABM began with two weeks of group exploration and art-making that focused on the theme of “Creation.” We explored two Biblical texts in depth:

  1. Genesis 1:1-1:10 – the first part of the Biblical story of creation, with a particular focus on the meaning of “tohu va-vohu” (usually translated as “unformed and void”), and if/how God created something from nothing;
  2. Exodus 35-36 – the story of the creation of the mishkan (holy tabernacle), with a particular focus on Bezalel’s role, the Israelite’s gifts to God, and what it means to create a holy space.

During each session, the community educators explored the text and related commentary in chevruta (study partners). They employed interpretive dialogue skills* to discover meaning within the texts themselves, found connections between the texts and their work as creative educators, and engaged in artistic creation in chevruta or as a whole group using the media of visual arts, installation, and creative movement.

During the final two weeks of the summer, the teen participants transitioned from their collective ABM experience to more personal ABM explorations called “ArtsME” projects. Likewise, the BIMA community educators transitioned from their group ABM experience to more personal explorations, which we called “ArtsCE” Projects.

Each community educator developed an ArtsCE project, in the medium of his/her choice, which considered one or more of the following questions:

  • What inspires me to educate?
  • What is my creative process for developing learning experiences?
  • How do I function as part of a creative team?
  • How do I co-create with other educators?
  • How do I inspire creativity among learners?
  • How do Jewish sources help me understand my role as a creator? As an educator?

To form the basis of the project, each community educator was asked to identify:

  1. A source that inspires you to think about your work as an educator and/or creator. The source could be drawn from the BIMA educational philosophy document; texts used during the staff ABM; other professional development documents explored together during the summer; or the ABM “sourceblog” (an online sourcebook created by the CE team from which they drew sources to develop their participant ABM sessions);
  2. An artistic medium that is familiar to you, and that you think will best express your ideas;
  3. An element of your personal experience as a community educator that you would like to reflect on in order to help you understand one or more of the questions posed above.

The final projects were diverse and rich. Each project reflected that educator’s unique perspective, talents and experiences at BIMA. We are delighted to share their projects with you over the next few months. We will be posting each project under the heading BIMA ArtsCE Projects followed by the educator’s name. Watch for them and enjoy!

*To help us develop the framework for our Artists Beit Midrash, BIMA collaborated with Orit Kent and Allison Cook from the Beit Midrash Research Project at the Mandel Center for Jewish Education at Brandeis to learn about their educational frameworks and tools. 


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