The Use of Experiential Workshops to Enhance a School -Wide Torah Curriculum:
The Parent Participation Factor in Achieving Integrative Success

Dena Lehrman, OTR
Steven Esses

As parents of students in Orot Etzion and as ATID fellows, the authors set out to improve upon the educational experience of their community school. To that end they facilitated the design, development and implementation of multi-sensory workshops by drawing on the hobbies, professional experiences and talents of the parent body to improve upon the school curriculum.

Some of the goals included:

  1. To identify the relevant subject material within the present curriculum that can be supplemented by parent run workshops.
  2. To identify parents of the student body who could design a workshop drawing on professional experience, life experience or related hobby.
  3. To help facilitate the implementation of the workshops.
  4. To assess the success of the workshops by feedback received from the classroom teachers and the parents themselves.
  5. To encourage the administration to capitalize upon the success of the pilot programs by making the workshops part of the permanent curriculum thereby enabling the teachers to draw upon the resources that we have created and integrate them into the school year.

The authors felt confident that they could create this phenomenon and introuduce this project into the school because Orot Etzion had a unique combination of variables which include:

  • An educational vision that emphasizes experiential/interactive learning

  • A parent body for the most part used to being involved in their children’s school.

  • A strong school administration with tremendous vision, yet open to new ideas.

  • A community such as Gush Etzion with its unique pool of potential parents and community resources which can be used to help enhance a Torah curriculum

The authors then went on to explore the positive effects of experiential learning within the classroom as well as the benefits of parent involvement. They next set out how they successfully implemented the project within the school by systematic approach. They began by speaking and getting the commitment from the founder and visionary of the Barkai system of learning which is the guiding philosophy of the school. They met with the principals as well as key educators and coordinators. They described how they managed to tap community resources by multiple meetings with parents who showed interest in the project as well as a letter that was sent out jointly by the school and the authors describing the program and enlisting their participation.

The authors in conjunction with the parents and school admimistration managed to run successful workshops including a “Bame Madlikin” workshop, olive oil production, soap making, dramatic workshops, demonstration of the principles of electricity on Shabbat and the Karban Mincha.

The implementation of such a far reaching vision and facilitating a change of this magnitude within an established educational institution requires time in order for it to become embedded into the philosophy of the school. A good part of our time was spent laying this foundation to get the school to commit to integrating our program into their educational milieu. This is a project that ATID has enabled us to launch, but will hopefully continue to evolve for a long time.


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