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Ma’ayanot STEAM Team Attends Makerspace Symposium at MIT

“Things that you learn by doing are lessons that last for a lifetime.” This quote, shared by a Stanford University professor at the first International Symposium of Academic Makerspaces (ISAM), is the basis of the new maker movement that is spreading rapidly across universities in America and the world. As co-directors of STEAM Education & Innovation at Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School, Mrs. Orly Nader and Mrs. Gila Stein participated in ISAM, which took place on November 13-16, at MIT in Boston. (STEAM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art/Architecture & Math.)

“Ma’ayanot is at the forefront of empowering its students to be part of this maker movement,” said Mrs. Stein. “Our goals are to equip all of our students with the necessary innovation and engineering skills that will enable them to be at the top of their class when they enter college and graduate school, and to be extremely competitive in the 21st century job market.” Ma’ayanot is one of the few yeshiva high schools in the United States to have a state-of-the-art Makerspace and four-year engineering program.

Other ISAM attendees and presenters included professors from universities such as Yale, Harvard, Stanford, Carnegie Mellon and Case Western, as well as an array of architects, entrepreneurs, college students and STEAM educators from other high schools. They came together to discuss best practices in building and equipping Makerspaces, and the philosophy of entrepreneurship and innovation.

“The audience was very diverse and it seems that at every level, universities are adding Makerspaces to their plans and including courses on entrepreneurship and basic design thinking in their curriculum,” said Mrs. Stein. “There was also a big emphasis on creating student-run Makerspaces. We want our students to be exposed to the maker philosophy and to be the ones who do the prototyping and engineering so that when they get to college, they are the ones who run the Makerspaces.”

Creating a culture of innovation was also emphasized at ISAM. “A core part of this symposium was about empowering students with the tools for innovation and creating a culture that includes not only students, but also faculty, administrators and the entire community,” added Mrs. Nadler. “It’s about embracing the notion that ‘I can create and I can make a difference in the world.’”

To spread that culture throughout the school, Ma’ayanot’s STEAM department has been building on three elements—accessibility (creating a brand new, open Makerspace lab), staffing its department with skilled educators and supplying hardware and materials to advance their students’ success. At ISAM, Mrs. Nadler and Mrs. Stein attended an expo and networked with Makerspace suppliers to make sure the school continues to be equipped with the best tools and cutting-edge materials. They also toured MIT Makerspaces and spoke with current students.

“It’s not enough to simply have the hardware,” said Mrs. Nadler. “We’re creating a culture where students spend a lot of time fiddling with tools and figuring things out on their own. That’s how they take ownership.”

Ma’ayanot is gearing up for its second annual STEAM Talks, which will be held on December 8. Modeled on TED Talks, this high-energy program features presentations from seven women who work in STEAM-related fields. This year’s speakers will include Miriam Helm, a software engineer and mathematician; Natalie Macon, a biomedical engineer; Estelle Anselmo, a rocket engineer; Dr. Chavi Karkowsky, a high-risk OB-GYN in maternal-fetal medicine; Leora Platt Mishaan, Creative Director of Teri Jon, the women’s luxury clothing line and Michelle Sohn, Vice President of Product Development at OXO housewares. A Maker Faire, in which students interact with hands-on exhibits in robotics, 3-D printing, drone technology, games and more, will follow STEAM Talks.

Attending ISAM and planning STEAM Talks are just two of the ways which the Ma’ayanot STEAM staff is keeping the school’s program on the cutting edge, so that students continue to be inspired to succeed in STEAM. As Mrs. Stein commented, “We are so proud of the problem solving, the critical thinking, the engineering and making skills that we witness every day in our Makerspace. These are indicators that our students are set to be the innovators and STEAM leaders of tomorrow.”

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