Friday, January 3, 2014

Mindmapping, Jewish Identity and the Classroom

How does our individual identity interact with our collective identity as members of the Jewish community?

This is a complicated question. Every Jewish individual relates to their Jewish identity in a different way. Some people are very observant but don't consider Judaism as a nationality or a unique culture. Others relate to the national or cultural aspects of Judaism while choosing to ignore the religious characteristics of Judaism.

As part of JETS Shutafut/Partnership program, middle school students from Emek HaHula Regional School in Northern Israel and the Talmud Torah of Edmonton Canada were asked to "Map your Jewish Identity." The mind-mapping was conceived as a tool for encouraging the students to consider how their own personal identity integrates into their Jewish identity.

Using the MindMeister Brainstorming tool, the students were asked to create a mind-map that would capture each individual student's stream of consciousness as he/she considered the different roles that play out in his/her life.

Students were asked to go to and create a bubble with their name in the middle. From there, they were asked to draw lines to additional bubbles that would express the different roles that they fill in their lives. Brother/Sister? Caretaker? Partner in family responsibilities? Friend? Gamer? Environmental activist? Volunteer? Student? Each student needed to consider how they view their own roles in the family/community and how others see them.

Following that exercise, the students moved to a linoboard where they were asked to expand on their personal identities and point to elements -- values, experiences, ideals, etc -- that connect them to the wider Jewish community.

This mindmapping lesson was designed to foster the students' self-awareness of their personal identies, and how fit into a wider identification with the Jewish community. It was, however, a valuable experience for the educators as well. For them, the significance this discussion related to uncoverng the knowledge and the tools that will enable an individual to become more aware of their personal Jewish identity and to grow Jewishly.

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