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  • Writer's pictureGamliel Beyderman

How We Contribute to Education, Part 2

A subject that makes up a large majority of what is learnt in Yeshiva, an Orthodox Jewish School, is The Talmud. The Talmud is a collection of writings that covers the full gamut of Jewish law and tradition. Through the learning of the Talmud, one learns not only the subject matter, but also how to think, for the Talmud records not just Jewish law, but the process by which those laws are determined.

Naava Frank, director of continuing education and professional development at YU school partnership says, “The values of critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration and authentic, passion-driven learning have long been part of traditional [Talmud] study.”

This is because, as Jacob Neuser articulates in his book, Invitation to the Talmud:“The Talmudic method consists in rigorous abstract argument about fundamentally practical… matters, an argument thoroughly articulated and tested against all possible objections. The purpose of the arguments is to discover the principles that make sense of things.”

So if you were to walk into a Yeshiva and perceive the phenomenal sight of tens or even hundreds of students learning the Talmud, you would understand that their learning of the content of the text itself comes along with developing many skills pertinent to all areas of education and life.

Genealogy Parallels

As a team passionate about the Jewish thought and genealogy we see lots of parallels! Genealogy too, comes along with a host of necessary skills. You must learn its methodology, how to interpret various types of documents, both legal and abstract. There is also evidence analysis, and learning to incorporate new information from published research.

You learn how to collect, record, and verify data, how to organize a mass of information, and how to make connections between various sources of information. Even social skills are developed by working with people that have information you need. You must learn how to interact, ask the write questions, and truly listen to what they have to say. This is not just knowledge of an abstract subject (that you can live without), these are skills needed for life!

Victoria Thomas, a student of Manhattan College, assisted in a project that sought to track and visualize migration patterns of African North Americans, prior to, during, and after the Civil War. Part of her specific role was to analyze civil war pension files of African American civil war soldiers, which instilled in her new found respect for the work of genealogists. She writes that, “I’ve learned the importance of receiving a well-rounded education that not just teaches you a specific trade, but teaches you a wide range of marketable and beneficial skills.”

Luis Rivera, a Spanish teacher at Whitby School, started researching his genealogy when he was only fourteen years old. By starting his research at such a young age he learnt the importance of always confirming information with other reliable sources. This skill proved vital throughout his high school and college education, when research played an integral role in his studies.

Being taught a wide range of skills allows you to work more efficiently on your own, as well as work and communicate more effectively with others.

How could an entertainment fad play a role?

We feel that when it comes to learning and practicing necessary skills, escape rooms are already contributing! The skills gained by playing in escape rooms include critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration and teamwork, analyzing information, adaptability, and taking initiative. This applies whether or not the escape room is educational in its content and message. These critical skills accumulate simply by taking part in an escape room game.

Rebecca Farrand, a dedicated science teacher of the fourth and fifth grades in Winchester Thurston School, introduced her students to computer science through an escape room. The students worked collaboratively with their peers toward a common goal, completing puzzles and using different ciphers to figure out different words, and questioning their classmates to find out the next clue.

“The goal is the lesson was to develop a persistence and to learn to problem solve on their own. In computer science the students will be faced with frustration and challenges that they will need to overcome and have success. The escape room was used to show them that they can use strategies, resources, a classmate, or me to help debug the problems that they may face,” Farrand explained.

Using an escape room to develop skills was also implemented in William Jewell College. Critical thinking is, naturally, a critical skill, and Professor Chris McCullik constantly strives to develop a students critical thinking skills within the accounting department. An accounting escape room was created which challenges students to think critically and solve problems, as well as collaborate with others in order to escape.

According to participating students, the accounting escape room is an entertaining and challenging exercise that helps to reinforce accounting knowledge while also encouraging creative problem solving.

Genealogy and escape rooms are both an exciting way to engage students of all ages, in a manner that develops crucial skills which they can use for the rest of their lives, in many different areas. At One Before Escape we hope to provide not just educational content, but also help develop critical skills in every player. With education being a primary concern for us, this dual educational experience we will offer, of both content and skills, is truly exciting!

Please email with your ideas of lesson plans incorporating our rooms!

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