As part of a continuing effort to refine its General Studies curriculum, Yeshivas Kochav Yitzchok / Torah Institute of Baltimore is offering special STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) lessons to talmidim of various grades.
In collaboration with the Center for Initiatives in Jewish Education (CIJE), our STEM lessons cover various relevant engineering disciplines, including civil, chemical, mechanical, electrical, computer, aeronautical, environmental and biomedical engineering.
Boasting an interactive, hands-on approach to learning, per the Project/Program–Based Learning (PBL) method of student-centered pedagogy, the lessons challenge the boys to solve specific problems with the knowledge they amass and the materials with which they are provided. Each session has multiple segments which may extend over several learning blocks: Introduction to the Challenge, Research, Small Group Project Based Learning, Review of Solutions and Discussion, and Relate Learning to Real World. For example, as the hurricane season winds down, the boys were tasked with constructing a "house" that can withstand fierce winds. The stakes were high: the hurricane readiness of the "houses" were tested for stability with fans. In the process, the boys learn about some of the engineering factors that affect a building's sturdiness — center of gravity, mass, and shape, just to name a few. Similar projects will be assigned for other areas of engineering as well.
Student feedback has been very positive. One student commented that “it’s one thing to learn about something in a textbook or even to have a teacher explain it well. It’s a completely different experience to have to figure things out using our own hands, skills and understanding. It’s fun and challenging and something I look forward to.” A younger student shared that “STEM is exciting because it doesn’t feel like ‘school-work.’ I work with a partner to solve a problem. It can take a few tries, but when we complete the project together it’s a very good feeling.”
The STEM programming offers a burst of energy matching that of our elementary and middle school boys. In addition to infusing talmidim with excitement for the study of science, it’s also an opportunity to hone academic skills via different sectors of engineering and affords an early exposure to stretch and grow engineering muscles, problem solving, critical thinking, and collaboration, social, and innovation skills.
Creating and implementing this STEM curriculum is a fairly complex endeavor. We are fortunate to receive extensive teacher training and support from our CIJE mentor, Joseph Saltzman and, as always, for our hanhala’s leadership.