This month we’ve begun our efforts to get the word out about our wonderful Early Childhood Programs at American Jewish University. ECE Professor Dr. Tamar Andrews and Megan Blicha, Engagement and Enrollment Coordinator, recently traveled to New Rochelle, NY where two schools came together to share the experience of a JSTEM crash course. Teachers engaged in an interactive, hands-on workshop that integrated JSTEM: Judaic content and science, technology, engineering, and math. Why is STEM important? STEM instills the importance of making connections and helps to build neuro pathways. It makes sense to introduce STEM during the time in children's lives when their brains are primed to take in new information.
At the workshop, educators were given an opportunity to experience JSTEM activities rather than listen to a lecture, which supports our values when working with children. Tables were set up with multiple stem actives that covered each domain of "JSTEM." The most popular activity involved science and Judaica, where teachers created cards for Rosh Hashanah using hammers and a vibrant flower. Hammers were used to pound the flowers to release pigment onto watercolor paper. For some other activities, Tamar challenged teachers to discover new and creative ways to use familiar materials such as LEGOS, Solo cups, and unit blocks by provoking engineering and math challenges.
Pipettes and primary watercolors were used for a "color mixing" activity. The teachers created many vibrant colors and used paint brushes and painter's tape to create an art piece with various shapes and designs (Math). Laughter and excitement filled the room as teachers worked together, brainstorming ideas and taking notes. A few teachers expressed that they were originally intimidated by such activities and didn’t realize how simple they were to implement and with materials most classrooms already had. They learned that regardless of a school's philosophy or curriculum model, schools must know that everyone will find myriad ways to bring JSTEM into the classroom without spending much money.
In addition to focusing on JSTEM, our workshops reflect our belief in investing in early childhood educators systemically. As Dr. Andrews said: "We need to hold our teachers to a higher standard and ensure that those charged with teaching to the most critical years of development are highly educated and highly skilled, thereby deserving higher wages and benefits."
Here at AJU, we see all of these as opportunities to educate and help support the continued evolution of the field of Jewish Early Childhood Education for the benefit of young children, families, and the Jewish community. See below for the opportunity to expand your learning around JSTEM.