Temple Israel hatched an Enrichment Program

A group of parents from Temple Israel gathered to brainstorm ways to bring their children together safely while helping them continue to learn. The result was the Temple Israel Enrichment pod. 

“It’s been a trying fall season for parents with school-aged children as they struggled with if or when schools will open,” said those working with the T.I.E. pod. “After a spring shut-down and summer plans laid to rest, parents were hopeful that, by fall, work and school schedules would be back to ‘normal.’ That didn’t happen. It still hasn’t happened. So Temple Israel parents hatched the T.I.E. pod.”

For 10 weeks from September through November, eight children spanning upper elementary and middle school (grades three-eight) met once a week for three hours outside with all COVID-19 safety protocols in place. The T.I.E. pod was open to both members and non-members of Temple Israel. The purpose of the T.I.E. pod was to provide public school parents an option for their children to learn in a hands-on, in person, socially distant and masked inquiry-based enrichment program. The program was not meant to supplant the regular school curriculum, but rather provide an opportunity for an enrichment program that recognizes the importance of allowing children to explore the humanities and the arts in the era of COVID-19. Skills fostered by the program included applying process skills used in fields of inquiry; recognizing problems and approaches to problem solving; understanding and appreciating individual differences; and becoming a self-directed learner through exploration of ideas and materials.

T.I.E. pod had two instructors: Gil Choi and Morgan Milovich. Choi is a Binghamton University B.A. graduate with a focus in acting and directing. He has performed locally with various community theater troupes and has toured worldwide with Binghamton-based dance trio Galumpha. Choi attended Hillel Academy as a child. In his class, the students read from a wide variety of materials, including William Shakespeare, Ray Bradbury, female and male writers, Latinx authors and Russian writers. The children wrote their own short stories every week and were taught how to construct literature with multidimensional characters. The students separately, but collaboratively, constructed two large clay scenes. Lastly, they designed a card game based on their work, which was sent to a graphic designer so that hard copies of their game were printed out and they could each keep a copy.

Milovich is a longtime art teacher, having graduated from Buffalo State College in 2005 with degrees in art education, ceramic design and a master’s in creativity. Milovich has taught for the last 16 years in a wide range of grade levels from kindergarten to college level classes. Additionally, she teaches private lessons in art, including ceramics, drawing, jewelry design and woodworking out of her home studios for individuals and small groups. Her group of T.I.E. students worked on a variety of lessons using Mother Nature as inspiration for their artwork. Students completed texture studies using colored pencil, oil pastels, marker, watercolor and handmade pottery pieces. Students also completed self-portraits in the style of Amedeo Modigliani using oil pastels. They also explored weaving and knotting techniques, and completed tessellated drawings.

A parent commented that their child looked forward to the T.I.E. pod every week to be with other children – interacting and socializing while learning something new and creative. The parent was also happy to get their child away from screens. Another shared, “Thank you! It has been one of the highlights of the first trimester.” Further comments included, “I wished it had been more than just once a week. They needed this!” 

Parents have expressed interest in having another learning pod experience in the spring with a different focus. Anyone interested in more information or having their child attend a spring and/or summer T.I.E. pod should contact Elissa Brown at elissabrown21@gmail.com.