Seniors Take Charge of Own Learning During Ma’avar

May 5, 2017
One senior is building a “happiness app” that leverages the most current psychological research. Another is teaching at a school in Tel Aviv. A couple of boys are driving through the U.S. heartland, interviewing people about the state of the country, then creating a podcast from their research. Students are interning at hospitals, a Tufts medical lab, a state senator’s office, and in the photography department of a local newspaper.

Welcome to Ma’avar, a six-week experience at the end of senior year, when students pursue their intellectual, artistic and academic passions independently. Ma’avar, which means “transition,” serves as a bridge between students’ high school years and what comes next. “As our seniors move into college and beyond, more and more they’ll have to make their own decisions about how to spend their time and where to put their energy,” explains Assistant Director of Teaching and Learning Jonah Hassenfield, who coordinates Ma’avar. “Ma’avar empowers them to take on some really ambitious projects—and their four years at Gann have prepared them to tackle those challenges.”

In 11th grade, students begin brainstorming potential projects with faculty. The conversations continue through senior year, when the planning gets more intense, with students creating detailed proposals and sample weekly schedules, which must be approved by Hassenfeld.

During Ma’avar, students chronicle their experiences and do regular check-ins at school, when they share what they’re learning and help each other problem-solve any challenges they’re experiencing. At the end of the six weeks, every senior makes a presentation to a panel of peers and faculty members.

“The key to Ma’avar is to encourage experimentation and risk-taking—to focus on process, not just outcomes,” says Hassenfeld. “Sometimes kids succeed fabulously: they have conducted juvenile diabetes research, recorded an album and painted a stunning mural in our music room that our community will enjoy for years. But we also had kids realize half-way through a project that it’s not working and we’ve mobilized to help them find another plan. Those can be greatest learning experiences too, when a project doesn’t go how you imagined.”

Together with five of her classmates, Yonina Eisenberg ’09 wrote, produced and acted in a musical based on Alice in Wonderland—an experience she says was unforgettable. “We developed something based on our passion for theatre— starting from nothing and following it through to the stage,” recalls Eisenberg. “To this day, it’s one of the things that I have done that I am most proud of.”
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