Elevating Classroom Innovators: Introducing the Atid Challenge

By Emily Winograd

Please don’t ask me when Prohibition passed or who wrote the Star-Spangled Banner. That’s what Wikipedia is for. If you must grill me about US history, stick to the four presidential runs of Eugene V. Debs, the Socialist Party’s longstanding candidate from 1904 to 1920.

A reasonable person might ask why I feel so confident about the life and times of Eugene V. Debs, as compared to anything else in the AP US History curriculum. The answer is simple: I portrayed him in a live reenactment of the 1912 election in my junior year of high school. Long hours of research, rehearsing my stump speech, and slicking back my hair (Debs was bald, but I could only take this so far) led up to the big event, where I competed for my classmates’ votes alongside the equally prepared and dapper Woodrow Wilson, Teddy Roosevelt, and William Howard Taft. I have my AP US History teacher, Mr. Pugliese, to thank for this engaging project, where we not only absorbed the historical facts, but also flexed our creativity and public speaking muscles in the hopes of changing the course of history.

Every year, teachers in Jewish day schools channel their passion, resourcefulness, and ingenuity to build memorable learning experiences like these. They toil over curricula and lesson plans, developing projects and assessments in which students of various learning styles and talents will excel in both Jewish and secular studies. There is no question that educators are constantly innovating – the challenge is replicating and adapting their innovations to reach students in the next classroom, down the street, and across the day school system.

The Atid Day School Innovation Challenge is an online platform designed to address this issue by celebrating creative teachers and sharing their groundbreaking classroom ideas with the world. The platform, housed at www.atidchallenge.strutta.com, will serve as both a competition hub and a living archive of classroom innovations. For the originators of this project – the PresenTense Group, the Jewish Education Project, and the UJA Federation of New York – the long-term vision extends far beyond the challenge itself. Our mission is to foster systemic implementation of innovations and educational best practices within Jewish day schools in the NYC metropolitan area.

The Atid Challenge will open for submissions by individuals or groups of up to 4 on October 19th and close on November 30th, with public voting on the entries running from December 1st until December 31st. To enter the challenge, teachers will film a 30 second video clip outlining an innovation and its impact. The clip can be as minimal as a frontal explanation or as out-of-the-box as the entrants can imagine. The challenge entry form also includes a short “playbook,” in which entrants will detail the actions, resources, and other considerations required to execute their ideas, in order to encourage replication.

Throughout the challenge, six incentives of $250 will be distributed to random entrants – a reward for the time spent corralling film crews or angling iPhones for that perfect selfie video! Twelve voters will also win $50 just for participating. However, the big winners will be eight entrants selected by a combination of a public vote and a panel of experts for an Atid Award of $1,000, as well as a place of honor at a Hackathon slated for Spring 2015.

While our community leaders, philanthropists, administrators, and parents explore creative solutions to affordability, it is critical that we also continue to raise the bar of excellence to ensure that day schools deliver the highest quality education. We believe that this innovation-sharing platform will bolster the collective effort to elevate great teachers and great ideas in our classrooms. We hope you will join us in sharing your ideas!

Emily Winograd is the Director of Programs and Training at the PresenTense Group. The Atid Day School Innovation Challenge is a project of the PresenTense Group and The Jewish Education Project, generously sponsored by the UJA Federation of New York.