Middle School Teacher Wins Katz Award to Fund Project Based Learning Initiative

Jennifer Ohana, Middle School English

Jennifer Ohana, a Middle School English Teacher at Hebrew Academy, was awarded the Eleanor Meyerhoff Katz z"l Teacher Initiative Award. The award is administered by the Center for the Advancement of Jewish Education, and is funded by the Eleanor M. Katz and Herbert D. Katz Family Foundation, which provides grants to outstanding teachers in Jewish Day Schools to stimulate new thinking and fund projects that positively impact student learning.

Ohana has been teaching English for more than 26 years, with 19 of those years being at the Hebrew Academy, and she is constantly looking for ways to connect her students to the larger world around them. This award will enable Ohana to implement a Project Based Learning initiative in the 8th grade entitled Renewable Resources to Renew Lives. Working in conjunction with Middle School Science Teacher Javier Gonzalez, the program will encompass science, language arts, Judaic studies, and civics to address the two driving questions: How can students be more mindful and use environmental resources more responsibly, and how can they use scientific knowledge to make a difference and improve someone else’s life?

“The inspiration for this initiative came when I was introduced to the Israeli organization Innovate Africa. This organization introduces Israeli technology, specifically solar power and drip irrigation, to change the lives of villagers throughout Africa,” said Jennifer Ohana, Middle School English Teacher.  “While I wanted to teach my students about this impactful organization, I also wanted them to follow its example- to take the knowledge that we have to change the lives of others and change the world.”

The kick-off activity requires students to explore the challenges that communities around the world face around resources, namely energy and water, in an experiential scavenger hunt and inquiry. For their science component, students will first visit the Kosher Food Bank, where they will learn that, in fact, local Jewish families face some of the same challenges as the individuals living in Africa- the difference being the support systems that are in place. Once they understand the local needs, students will engage in a hands on learning experience to understand the amount of electricity needed to power their homes, and the solar power that would be required to provide that energy.  In groups, students will have to design solar powered kits that will charge batteries for Kosher Food Bank families to power flashlights, or any other device for which they would want to use the batteries. 

“This initiative enables students to see the real life application of their learning,” said Ohana.  “Not only will they be exploring relevant and timely issues, but it will allow them to take their learning far beyond the classroom to help improve the lives of others in the community.”

Jennifer Ohana, a Middle School English Teacher at Hebrew Academy, was awarded the Eleanor Meyerhoff Katz z"l Teacher Initiative Award. The award is administered by the Center for the Advancement of Jewish Education, and is funded by the Eleanor M. Katz and Herbert D. Katz Family Foundation, which provides grants to outstanding teachers in Jewish Day Schools to stimulate new thinking and fund projects that positively impact student learning.

Ohana has been teaching English for more than 26 years, with 19 of those years being at the Hebrew Academy, and she is constantly looking for ways to connect her students to the larger world around them. This award will enable Ohana to implement a Project Based Learning initiative in the 8th grade entitled Renewable Resources to Renew Lives. Working in conjunction with Middle School Science Teacher Javier Gonzalez, the program will encompass science, language arts, Judaic studies, and civics to address the two driving questions: How can students be more mindful and use environmental resources more responsibly, and how can they use scientific knowledge to make a difference and improve someone else’s life?

“The inspiration for this initiative came when I was introduced to the Israeli organization Innovate Africa. This organization introduces Israeli technology, specifically solar power and drip irrigation, to change the lives of villagers throughout Africa,” said Jennifer Ohana, Middle School English Teacher.  “While I wanted to teach my students about this impactful organization, I also wanted them to follow its example- to take the knowledge that we have to change the lives of others and change the world.”

The kick-off activity requires students to explore the challenges that communities around the world face around resources, namely energy and water, in an experiential scavenger hunt and inquiry. For their science component, students will first visit the Kosher Food Bank, where they will learn that, in fact, local Jewish families face some of the same challenges as the individuals living in Africa- the difference being the support systems that are in place. Once they understand the local needs, students will engage in a hands on learning experience to understand the amount of electricity needed to power their homes, and the solar power that would be required to provide that energy.  In groups, students will have to design solar powered kits that will charge batteries for Kosher Food Bank families to power flashlights, or any other device for which they would want to use the batteries. 

“This initiative enables students to see the real life application of their learning,” said Ohana.  “Not only will they be exploring relevant and timely issues, but it will allow them to take their learning far beyond the classroom to help improve the lives of others in the community.”