Ma’ayanot’s unique sophomore STEAM curriculum, Making a Difference, has been selected as a partner site for National Science Foundation-funded research into women in STEAM fields. At Ma’ayanot, STEAM is a core curricular requirement for freshmen, who gain a solid foundation in engineering, coding and design skills, and for sophomores, who are “making a difference” by employing a deep process of design thinking and production to create a personalized, accessible book or toy for a visually-impaired child.
Reyce Krause, Ma’ayanot’s director of STEAM curriculum, has facilitated partnerships with three inclusive schools: the School for Children with Hidden Intelligence (SCHI) in Lakewood, New Jersey; JEWELS in Pikesville, Maryland and Elmwood School in Rockland County, New York. Ma’ayanot STEAM students will be creating their projects for students in each of those schools.
Build a Better Book, a program at the University of Colorado Boulder which engages young people in designing and fabricating inclusive media, has inspired Ma’ayanot’s Making a Difference program. On October 12, Stacey Forsyth of Build a Better Book visited Ma’ayanot in person to introduce the sophomores to the research the program is conducting with a grant from National Science Foundation (NSF). Build a Better Book chose Ma’ayanot as one of their partner sites because STEAM is a required course at Ma’ayanot, and the NSF wants to broaden the research beyond only those young women who opt into STEAM courses and activities, in order to research the views of students for whom STEAM is a requirement—which, nationally, is still a rare phenomenon. In addition, Ma’ayanot has a large cohort of students available to participate in the study; approximately 100 Ma’ayanot 10th graders are enrolled in STEAM.
Benefits to Ma’ayanot include professionally crafted statistical surveys researching the school’s program, which will yield reliable results that will offer insights into the program and enable Ma’ayanot to plan effectively for the future;, as well as NSF funding for parts of the Making a Difference program, including transportation to the partner schools and some materials and equipment. While students are required to take the STEAM course as a Ma’ayanot curricular requirement, participation in the NSF study is completely optional for students, separate parental consent is required, and the privacy of all students’ personal information will be protected. The research has been reviewed by the Institutional Review Board at University of Colorado Boulder to ensure it complies with ethical guidelines.
On November 2, sophomores will visit SCHI and Elmwood to meet with the student for whom they are building the device, as well as with the student’s teachers and therapists, in order to fully understand the student’s strengths and needs, and to be able to design their device with their specific student’s “favorite colors, games, hobbies and interests in mind,” explained sophomore Yael Motechin. She added, “I enjoy Ma’ayanot STEAM because we have a space to be as creative as we want while designing and expressing ourselves.”
Ma’ayanot sophomores are excited to begin applying their coding, design and fabrication skills to a project that also fosters empathy and exemplifies Ma’ayanot’s ethic of giving. Sophomore Liana Wiesel exclaimed, “I love that I get the opportunity to create projects with my own ideas, and that the projects will have a positive impact on a student with special needs.” Ma’ayanot’s STEAM program exemplifies Ma’ayanot’s values of top-tier, rigorous academics, providing opportunities for young women even in historically underrepresented fields, and a spirit of empathy and of sharing with others.