Saturday, April 01, 2023

Led by an innovative and passionate educator, Sarah Hochman created Parsha Through STEAM, a fun and unique way for children to learn the parsha of the week. Hochman lives in Stamford, Connecticut and has taught Jewish studies and science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) for 25 years.

Hochman teaches Parsha Through STEAM, an after-school online session for children, geared to grades 2-5 and lasting approximately an hour. She also leads special sessions for schools, camps, shuls and custom-designed learning groups. Currently Parsha through STEAM takes place at 4:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m., but the time is flexible. For each session Hochman mails the STEAM activity to every child’s house, so they can participate via Zoom from the safety and comfort of their home.

During the online classes, children explore the parsha in both Hebrew and English, and learn one aspect of the parsha in depth using science, technology, engineering, arts, or mathematics.

The basis of Hochman’s program is the fact that children are intrigued by these topics, and she knew she could utilize STEAM activities to engage and teach youngsters something that is typically not focused on in a school curriculum, such as the parsha.

Not only does she love teaching the younger generation and guiding them in different STEAM ventures, but she loves how children are in awe of new information and different methods of exploring unique ideas. The goal here is to make Judaism fun for the students, and the text exciting and engaging.

Hochman has completed special classes for synagogues with anywhere from five to 20 students, which were great successes. The children not only had a blast, but they produced beautiful products like Har-Sinai night lights and fire and smoke at the top of Har Sinai. Hochman has received many requests for classes over Chol Hamoed Pesach, so students can continue their studies about Pesach in a fun and interactive way. Additionally, she has received very positive feedback from parents who were thrilled with the incorporation of Hebrew and text along with the STEAM activities. Oftentimes the children are having so much fun that they don’t even realize they are learning.

When asked how she comes up with every STEAM activity idea, Hochman explained how “experimentation and measurement can be found everywhere if you just look closely enough.” For example, blowing up your sins, or making an Aron HaKodesh to scale with 3D printing isn’t a far stretch. Building with engineering skills, using LED lights, or exploring different materials to express something happening in a given holiday story are all STEAM activities.

The activities require a lot of preparation. Hochman’s own children help her pack boxes for mailing for every session, and get paid for their work, too.

The educator loves to see the excitement on kids’ faces when they “get it.” She said: “The children have an idea and I get to say, ‘OK, you beat me to the punch.’ I was just going to tell you Rashi said that but now I can just say, ‘Hello Rashi’ because the student gave me an answer that Rashi said.”

There is no debate that this type of interactive learning encourages children to use their imagination and think outside of the box. The best part of Parsha Through STEAM for Hochman is knowing that she is influencing tomorrow’s Jewish leaders. To book your session please contact Hochman at [email protected]

By Julianne Yvette Katz


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