Lauder-ORT No. 134 “Dimcho Debelianov” Jewish School, Sofia
The Lauder-ORT No. 134 “Dimcho Debelianov” Jewish School is the result of a successful collaboration between World ORT, the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation and the Bulgarian education authorities. It caters for students all the way from preschool through to 12th grade, and brings with it more than one hundred years of history. It is the only school in Bulgaria which teaches Hebrew. In 2017 the school obtained a status as an Innovative school.
|Name of School||134 "Dimcho Debelianov" Hebrew and English Language School (Lauder - ORT School)|
|Age range||Preschool, Elementary, Junior High, High School|
This is the only school in Bulgaria where Hebrew and Jewish traditions are being taught. One third of the students have Jewish origin but all the students study Hebrew. The education is based on the Jewish life cycle and the Jewish calendar. Guests such as the Minister of Education and Mayor of Sofia visit the school on Hanukkah and Purim. The Hebrew curriculum helps to create a close relationship with The State of Israel. Yom Ha'atzmaut is a day celebrated by all the students and teachers in the school.
Groups of students visit Israel twice a year while working on different projects.
Hebrew is taught from 1st to 12th grade. In grade 12th, at the end of their education at the school, all the students have the possibility to pass an exam led by an expert from the Israeli Ministry of Education and to obtain a levelled certificate of proficiency in Hebrew.
In 2017, a new digital Hebrew and Jewish Heritage curriculum was introduced for elementary school students - iTaLAM.
The high school curriculum runs three tracks: foreign languages, science and IT, digital design & media. Courses on offer include Literature, History, Hebrew and English language, Information Technology, Computer Graphics Design, Programming, Web & 3D Design, Entrepreneurship and Office Technology. Since 2016 two new subjects were introduced – Computer animation and Game design.
Advanced technology is not only taught as a subject in its own right, but is also used as an essential tool for learning and teaching in all other subjects.
The school has a state-of-the-art media centre, which has a photo studio, a radio studio and a video recording studio - enabling live TV broadcasts to be made within the school's TV network and through YouTube.
The studio has semi-pro cameras and full lighting set-up for a range of situations as well as separate audio and video editing suites. There is a wide range of modern equipment supporting the ICT lessons and extracurricular activities of more than 500 students. The studio is capable of supporting a multi-camera filming with mobile cameras which can be sent to a video mixer. The equipment is semi-professional and contains features similar to professional TV studios.
At the beginning of 2013, the media centre began a partnership with one of the leading national television channels in Bulgaria and students using the media centre are regular guests in its studios. In addition, several directors and professional cameramen give lectures at the school.
The students benefit from cooperation between the school and the world famous Nu Boyana Film Studios - the largest film studios in Eastern Europe.
IT and Science Labs and Infrastructure
There are about 100 computers available in four computer labs and classrooms all connected to a local area network (LAN). The computers in the labs are more than sufficient for smooth interaction in the sophisticated 2D and 3D applications taught at the school. A very fast, reliable and self-optimising WiFi system was installed in the school building at the beginning of 2016. It provides ubiquitous WiFi coverage throughout the entire school, allowing students to communicate and study online easily and free of charge using different learning applications.
In October 2015, thanks to Janet and Ken Sulek, World ORT installed a new chemistry laboratory at the school. The new laboratory is helping the Lauder-ORT Jewish School to improve the quality of its science and technology study tracks and is enabling the school to continue offering the best possible education to its students. The laboratory is being very intensively used by Lauder-ORT students from 5th-12th grades for chemistry, physics and biology lessons. Watch video here.
In January 2017, thanks to The Charles and Alice Kurland Family and ORT America-Metropolitan Chicago Region, World ORT installed a Design and Technology laboratory, known simply as “the Lego lab”. The new “Lego lab” provides an excellent opportunity for cross-curricular STEM education and for teaching programming skills.
The lab is targeted mainly at students in grades 5 to 9, who study an advanced science curriculum and robotics while older students study Arduino, another level of robotics and electronics. Students are also introduced to entrepreneurship by developing new robots, for example, and learning how to market and sell them.
Technology use in teaching
Advanced technology is not only taught as a subject in its own right, but is also used as an essential tool for learning and teaching in all other subjects. Teachers use technology across all subjects and there is technology available in every classroom.
Office 365 is used by all students and teachers in high school and offers a collaborative environment to enhance and extend learning and teaching both within and beyond the school. The students and their teachers have free online access to all Microsoft Office applications and use extensively OneDrive for Business, OneNote, and Office 365 Outlook calendar to share, study and plan their everyday activities. Teachers have taken all these technologies on-board and have tried to integrate them into their pedagogy.
Two interactive classrooms have been set up for the 2015/16 school year including 50” and 65” interactive TV screens, using interactive classroom software with student voting facilities, donated by the A-Class company from Taiwan. 45 10” tablets are available for use with the system too, providing possibilities for group work.
ORT Bulgaria Holocaust Education Resource Center
The Bulgarian educational system has historically offered very little by way of Holocaust education, and to this day does not apportion any dedicated teaching time to the subject. As a result, young people in Bulgaria are poorly informed about the Holocaust, and many are not even aware of their own country’s beneficent treatment of the Jews during this period.
In response, staff at 134 “Dimcho Debelianov” Hebrew and English Language School, together with academics from the University of Sofia, have developed an online repository of Bulgarian teaching materials on the Holocaust, including lesson plans and detailed local historical information as well as useful links, book reviews and film recommendations.
The resource centre has also organized teacher training seminars in Sofia and the surrounding area, thereby making connections with a large number of schools and teachers. These seminars introduced teachers to the website and its bank of resources tailored to the Bulgarian context. The seminars were designed to demonstrate to teachers that they could accommodate Holocaust education within the existing curriculum, and that they had access to a wealth of resources for this purpose.
The centre has furthered its work by organizing a competition entitled "Rescued and Killed; Righteous and Sinners", challenging students to create short movies dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the saving of the Bulgarian Jews during the Holocaust (watch video here). The centre regularly helps students to take part in different national level competitions about the Holocaust such as “The importance of the memory of the Holocaust to the world after the Second World War” and “70 years after the liberation of the concentration camp "Auschwitz - Birkenau" - facing the past to have a future", won by students from the Lauder-ORT school.
The school provides a range of extra-curricular activities related to STEM, computing, digital media and ICT for all grades:
These activities include: Lego construction (grades 1-4), Robotics with Lego Mindstorms (grades 4-9), Arduino, “The magic of mathematics”(Grades 5-8), The young script writers club (supporting the school radio and TV), Entrepreneurship, World ORT Innovation Centres.
In addition, extracurricular activities at the school include Bulgarian folk dancing, traditional Jewish dancing, football, modern ballet, karate, fencing, dance, sport, a school choir and chess.
Activities to develop 21st century skills are very popular with students, teachers and parents. The include, science days, 'Big Read' and LEGO building competitions.
Digital Skills Academy
The school has hosted 3 editions of World ORT Digital Skills Academy – a two-week summer school taking place in Bulgaria during which 28 students get the chance to study Digital Photography, Audio and Video Production. Find out more by watching the video here.
Having available the latest technologies and having talented students and teachers the school has won many competitions. Among them are:
- €7 000 from NEC Display Solutions for the winning video created under the theme of ‘Why does our School need to upgrade the classroom? (video here)
- 1st place in a competition for creating a video about the beginning of the new school year, organized by Microsoft.
- 1st place – “100 years Bulgarian cinema - Movie Remake” (link here)