As the new school year is getting underway, thousands of students across the FSU are braving the waters of Jewish tradition and heritage studies through FJC’s “Darkeinu” curriculum. And this September, Darkeinu, now in its 8th year, is increasing its scope even further with a pioneer program in kindergartens and new study materials for teachers and students.
Darkeinu has been developed specifically for Jewish heritage studies in the post-Soviet countries with a detailed learning curriculum for every grade and over 100 textbooks, workbooks and teacher manuals.
This year Darkeinu launched in 80 kindergartens across the FSU for the first time. Two dolls, Danya and Dina accompany the little students as they learn about Jewish holidays, customs and history and help make the learning process more creative and interactive. “So far we have a very enthusiastic reaction from the kids, parents and educators,” said Darkeinu program director , Irina Dashevsky. “Our lessons are implemented twice a week, and the children are looking forward to them.”
As for back to school presents, this year Darkeinu prepared a special journal for students, which is structured around the Jewish year and provides short stories, puzzles and riddles on Jewish themes along the way. Journals like that are in widespread use in Israeli schools, but this is the first time their peers from the post-Soviet region will get to enjoy them as well.
Darkeinu is also introducing two new teaching manuals – one for weekly Torah portions and the other on informal education, which can be applied in various settings outside the classroom – be it on a trip, an extracurricular activity or a shabbaton.
“This year we are focusing even more on being in close contact with our subject teachers and providing them with all the necessary tools and personal guidance to successfully implement the curriculum,” Dashevsky said. As part of that effort Darkeinu is launching a training course for teachers, that consists of a series of video lessons that can be completed at the teachers’ convenience. At the end they have to pass an exam and get a certification diploma – something that Dashevsky hopes will further stimulate professional growth.
Darkeinu also developed learning aids in the form of large poster maps, that illustrate different epochs in Jewish history and make learning more interactive and accessible. “More and more schools throughout the region are choosing Darkeinu for Jewish studies, with the curriculum taught everywhere from Kazakhstan to Latvia. This year we will also conduct a review of the material we’ve developed in the seven years of the program, and based on that prepare a detailed analysis for further textbook edits,” Dashevsky said.