Beth Tfiloh tenth grade students consult with Director of STEM Education Vince Bonina

In the two years since its inception, Beth Tfiloh’s school-wide STEM program has provided students with an opportunity to integrate the four disciplines — science, technology, engineering and math — into a single, cross-disciplinary program.

The STEM mindset is a 21st-century, holistic educational approach representing a shift in learning from compartmentalized subjects to interdisciplinary study, and a shift in students from knowledge consumers to producers through collaborative, creative, interdisciplinary learning and exploration.

“As our understanding of student learning evolves and as the skills needed to participate in business and industry change, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics stand out as increasingly more relevant,” said Vince Bonina, director of STEM Education at Beth Tfiloh.

Using Technology to Further 21st-Century Student Learning Goals
A critical component of this school-wide initiative is increasing the technical fluency of faculty and students with both hardware and software to enhance their STEM learning.

Greater technology integration empowers students to explore their environment in new and exciting ways, make data-driven decisions, and communicate their ideas deliberately and accurately. BT students at all grade levels are challenged to meet and exceed these goals across a rigorous dual general and Judaics curriculum.

Middle School science teacher Krista Maniatis guides BT eighth graders through a logo design project

Evolution of the STEM Initiative
As the STEM program enters its third year, its well-articulated list of 21st-century learning goals have remained integral to its success, bolstered by many subsequent enhancements across all the school’s divisions.

“Every single division – from PreSchool through High School – has been encouraged and supported to enhance STEM and 21st-century learning integration in their curricula,” said Beth Tfiloh Director of Education Dr. Zipora Schorr.

High School students have engaged in STEM programming since the ninth grade, which has created an environment brimming with self-confident and critical thinkers adaptable to the fast-paced needs of our ever-changing career world. Students are proficient in their use of the equipment in the state-of-the-art STEM Center, including 3D printers, CNC routers and the laser cutter/engraver.

In addition, at the High School’s annual Dr. Liebe Diamond STEM Day, Beth Tfiloh students explore a broad range of STEM careers with leading professionals from top area firms, startups, government agencies, universities and hospitals, gaining insight regarding necessary education for specific career paths.

This fall, the Middle School proudly unveiled its new STEM Lab, which touts some of the latest technologies, including six Makerbot Sketch 3D printers, 20 MYNT 3D Printing Pens, and eight Dobot Robotic Arms –the world’s first artificial intelligence-infused robot arm for K-12 education.

All students in fifth through eighth grade participate in some aspect of STEM education, whether one per trimester for fifth and sixth grade, or several times per week in seventh and eighth grade. In addition, all eighth-grade students hone their design-thinking skills while working through the engineering design process in the new “Introduction to Engineering Technologies” course, previously only offered in High School. Each year, the curriculum will be introduced into increasingly lower grades, allowing students to develop their mastery of skills and become more prepared for the advanced engineering curriculum in the higher grades.

Innovation, collaboration and creativity are the cornerstones of the Lower School’s highly anticipated Innovation Lab to open this fall. The Innovation Lab will provide a collaborative learning environment where students and teachers can gather to create, invent, tinker, build, experiment, design, explore and discover using a variety of tools and materials.

Open to all Lower School students from kindergarten through fourth grade, the Innovation Lab will serve as a hands-on learning lab where students use the design process to think through and solve problems using everyday items. Teachers will also use this space to introduce new topics, encourage further exploration of a current unit, or as a recap to assess student learning.

PreSchool 2s learn through hands-on play

The PreSchool program also incorporates a STEM approach into their well-established Reggio Emilia approach, play-based curriculum. In the youngest of students, design thinking and innovation is very much “at play,” quite literally. As these youngest students engage in play in their classrooms, intentional directives are provided by trained PreSchool educators, fostering an environment where students are encouraged to use their design skills to create and manipulate the tools and media around them.

Where are they now?
The expectations of 21st--century students are exceedingly high. By the end of high school, students are college-ready, prepared to apply knowledge in interdisciplinary ways, effectively communicate and collaborate, skillfully manipulate technology, and navigate a world of diminishing resources and increasing diversity.

With these challenges in mind, the BT STEM Initiative sets out to provide students with the skills and mindset necessary for success in today’s world and remains committed to fostering tomorrow’s leaders.

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