July 8, 2024
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WTA 3D Prints Swag for Israel Parade

On Sunday, May 22, Westchester Torah Academy (WTA) marched up Fifth Avenue in the Celebrate Israel parade, playing over 50 maracas and drums designed and created by WTA students via 3D printing. WTA combined its laser focus on STEAM education with Israel leading the 3D printing revolution as the school’s interpretation of the parade’s theme.

In recognition of its innovative accomplishment, WTA’s group placed second in this year’s parade.

“For the project, these kids came together, had a vision, and executed the vision,” said David Merel, WTA’s operations and technology director. “The administration was blown away by this idea, which was something unique and different.

“The focus of education today is STEAM: Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics” he continued. “We recognize that the jobs of today and tomorrow are very STEAM-focused, which is why preparing the students for the future utilizing STEAM is a core component at WTA.

According to Merel, this past year the school launched a unique STEAM curriculum which he called “Practical STEAM.” While many STEAM programs focus on coding and robotics, WTA’s program goes above and beyond, with everyday practical STEAM-based lesson plans the students can immediately use in the real world.

When the new school building opened this year with twelve 3D printers in its lab, the students used the printers to create braille plaques for classrooms. Recently, the eighth grade gifted the school an 8×8 chessboard, with blue and yellow chess pieces printed in 3D.

Merel noted, “As educators, we know that students learn best by engaging in activities in which they encounter problems, test out approaches and build their own understanding of a solution. Inquiry-based, hands-on experiences help to create lifelong learners with the thirst for knowledge, critical in today’s digital and collaborative work environments. Therefore, we also teach our children plumbing, power tools, computer assembly, physical and Wi-Fi networking, smart-home technology, irrigation, and much more.

“At the end of 8th grade,” he continued, “each student is required to take what they have learned in our program and go into the community to help local families and institutions looking for assistance related to all the fields of specialty students have learned, underscoring the Jewish values of sharing knowledge and achrayut: that we are all one Jewish community, responsible for taking care of each other in all the ways we are able.”

He added that since WTA’s launched its STEAM program, it has had many visitors from other organizations to learn about the program, including a delegation from the Israeli consulate. In addition, WTA has received many accolades from organizations like CIJE, the largest curriculum developer in the country for Jewish education. There has also been a great deal of interest from the Gruss Foundation, which runs the largest Jewish STEAM curriculum program in the country. “Aryeh Majerowicz, the foundation’s vice president of administration, referred to our program as the future of STEAM education,” said Merel.

According to Merel, what makes WTA’s STEAM curriculum different from other schools is that “other schools integrate into existing classes; we have separate dedicated classes.“We teach things like what you would’ve expected back in the day in a shop class; this is 21st-century shop. … That’s the magic at WTA, not compromising but getting the best STEAM program money can buy across the country.”

“While some schools buy 3-D printers for 1000s of dollars, we assure kids have equipment not out of reach that their parents might want to buy. We use fantastic 3-D printers that retail for about $300. It’s not unrealistic for kids to have one down the road,” explained Merel.

The theme of this year’s Celebrate Israel Parade parade was “Together Again! כולנו ביחד!” According to Merel, this dovetailed with the school’s STEAM approach. The faculty selected designs submitted
by the students, who then worked together on the printing and coloring.

“Just like much of STEAM is collaborative, music is also a great way to bring people together,” said Merel. “When we are together, we are stronger. Students built this project together. Much of STEAM is collaborative; working together and coming together.”

“Hopefully, next year, maybe we’ll be marching with droids and robots,” concluded Merel.

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