Wednesday, January 22 brought bitter cold weather and lots of snow… and an exciting cross-cultural exchange with the head of the Education Department in the city of Baqa, Israel. Dr. Asmaa Ganayem was in New York for a meeting on Arab-Israeli relations and Schools That Can NYC had the fortunate opportunity to host her on a tour to Democracy Prep’s newest middle school, DP Endurance, which opened in 2012. Though the cold and snow brought diminished attendance, it didn’t diminish any spirits. A small cohort of educators and advocates braved the weather and had the wonderful opportunity to tour DPE and see its students in action and engage in a lively discussion of education across countries and cultures.

The group visited 6th and 7th grade Math, Science, Reading, and Dance classes and had the chance to sit down with the school’s principal Margaret Marrer. She talked about how her teachers infuse joy and rigor into their classrooms. “We have the best teachers,” she said; their creativity and enthusiasm infiltrate the entire school. She shared an anecdote about how teachers built engagement prior to the reading of “And Then There Were None” by creating their own school-wide mystery for students to solve. Now, as they continue reading the murder mystery, Marrer hears students in the lunch room trying to identify the murderer through heated debates rooted in textual evidence.

In addition to hearing some of the wonderful culture-building anecdotes from DPE, the group discussed the role of charter schools, tests, technology, and effective practices for special education. While there are certainly different structures and challenges in place in each city, there was a lot of common ground as well.

Thank you Democracy Prep, Margaret Marrer, and Dr. Asmaa Ganayem!