Why is AJU's Graduate Center for Education bringing second year students to places like Dodger Stadium, Starbucks, Disneyland, and even American Girl Place as part of their curriculum? Dr. Ron Wolfson, Fingerhut Professor of Education, who has been teaching the practicum in experiential education at AJU for six years, explains that these field trips take the students out of the theoretical and into the practical experience of the real world. As visitors to these popular venues, students ask:
- What about this experience is having an impact on me?
- What are the underlying principles that make this an effective experience for me?
- How can I apply these principles to my personal vision of Jewish education?
After each field trip, the class shares their observations, finding them to be rich with lessons on how they can further engage their audience of campers, students or parents. Some of these ideas may seem basic, but historically have not been applied in the classroom. The following are some examples:
Observation: Because Starbucks has a language of its own, they offer brochures to guide newcomers on how to order their desired drinks.
Lesson: Wouldn't it be helpful for newcomers to a service to have a guide to the prayers or the Hebrew?
Observation: Souvenirs taken home from Dodger Stadium and Disneyland serve to keep people feeling connected to that experience.
Lesson: Providing worshippers with a memento, such as a copy of the Parsha in English, would be similar to sending a camper home with a hat with the name of the camp. It prolongs the experience.
Observation: Visiting American Girl Place is a destination experience with a variety of opportunities to participate.
Lesson: Creating a family service with a wide assortment of activities insures something enjoyable or interesting for every member of the family.
Among other venues visited by the class during the semester will be the Tree People, Color Me Mine, Zimmer Museum, and the Noah's Ark exhibit at Skirball. Each site will offer the students ideas through their unique spin on implementing signage and branding, welcoming visitors, creating group participation, and using ancillary products such as food and t-shirts to enhance the experience. This class is one of many reasons why graduates of AJU'S Graduate Center for Education are skillful, creative leaders who are able to bring their personal vision of Jewish education to life.