During the past few years Los Angeles has experienced a changing landscape in the area of Jewish education. Older institutions changed formats, such as Shalhevet – which expanded its doors to include a lower school and then reformatted back to a high school. Recently, educators experimented with new models; Yeshiva High Tech and Chabad of South La Cinega each have their own Jewish Montessori preschool. And the latest challenger to L.A.’s educational paradigm is Darko, a Jewish Montessori elementary school.
Darko was created by Shimon Shain, a local educator and founder of MasterMind LA, a well-known tutoring and coaching company that mentors students and teachers on the latest cutting-edge developments in Jewish education. MasterMind LA is responsible for the Lashon HaTorah program at Darko.
Unlike a traditional day school, the Darko learning center breaks the mold with its innovative and collaborative approach to education. Students benefit from full-time, half-day or opt-in classes based on availability. They fall under their parents’ Private School Affidavit, which takes the concept of homeschooling to the next level. Rather than merely thinking outside the box, this allows students and educators to ponder the shape of Jewish education.
Darko prides itself as being Jewish Montessori, whereby students participate in hands-on learning, spending more time actively engaged in curriculum rather than sitting at desks. This past year the students participated in science courses offered at the L.A. Science Center, learned about spatial relationships with LEGO Robotics enforced by a trip to Legoland, and re-enforced mathematical skills through working on fractions during challah-making. Additionally, the students focused on pre-geometry concepts during woodworking, and on technical skills that included computers and graphics put to use during Claymation classes.
Darko’s Judaic and general studies curriculums are fully integrated. When the children learn about the first day of creation, when Hashem created light, the teachers teach about the science of gravity and light. When the children learn about day three of creation, when Hashem created land and oceans, the teachers offer instruction in geography.
For more information about Darko and ways to get involved, or to schedule a tour of its Pico Robertson campus at 9581 West Pico Boulevard, call 323-244-4136. You can visit Darko’s virtual tour at DarkoLA.org.Jeanne Litvin
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