An associate professor at Technion-Israel Institute of Technology visited Abrams Hebrew Academy in Yardley, Pa., in preparation for the fall launch of an unprecedented partnership between the Jewish day school and Israel’s top science and technology research university.
Computer scientist Orit Hazzan visited the school on Jan. 17 as part of face-to-face planning of a unique new remotely delivered science curriculum with Technion.
The three-year pilot program will be introduced to Abrams students in the sixth-eighth grades beginning next September and potentially extended to lower grades in the future. Lectures and interactive experiments will “allow pupils to be involved and to explore, using technology in the most sophisticated ways,” said Hazzan, head of Technion’s Department of Education in Science and Technology.
The on-line learning units, including video lectures and follow-up assignments, will likely make use of a “flipped classroom” model, whereby students listen to lectures on their own at home and then use class time to practice with their teacher.
The first unit will focus on energy; Technion has recently made significant investments into the research and development of energy and alternative fuels.
The collaboration between Abrams and Technion began in 2012 after ongoing discussions revealed that both institutions “foster curiosity, promote science and technology, and have a great love for Israel,” said Linda Richman, associate regional director of American Technion Society in New York, who accompanied Hazzan on her visit.
Abrams Hebrew Academy director Rabbi Ira Budow said the program represents a proactive response to a troubling trend. “There’s a tremendous lack of science teachers in America,” he said, “and at the same time, day schools like ours are continually being challenged to provide value and offer a compelling reason to send kids there.
“We see this program as a creative and affordable way to offer the advanced instruction we seek for our student body.”
Budow said the school’s goal can be summed up as “ESTM,” or Excellence in Science, Torah, and Mathematics.
“Everywhere in the world, the state of education in science and technology needs to be improved,” said Hazzan. Technion recently began offering its own students the opportunity to pursue a teaching certificate in science and technology on a full scholarship whether they elect a career in teaching or not.
Once in place, Abrams’s remote learning program with Technion will join on-line science classes currently offered to seventh- and eighth-grade honors students through two Pennsylvania day schools.
“It’s a very different method of learning which has its own challenges,” said Leslie Cohen Rogers, a chemistry teacher at one of those schools, the Kohelet Yeshiva High School in Merion Station, Pa. “But the kids are getting access to a very high level of science instruction which I’m not sure they would get without this remote program, and they’re doing extremely well.”
“These types of programs help kids become more passionate about science and Israel,” said Richman. Abrams recently added a stop at Technion to the itinerary of its annual class trip to Israel for eighth-graders.
“Pursuing groundbreaking programs like these is exciting and fulfilling when you see the incredible results that can be achieved by a small day school in Yardley,” added Dale Sattin, director of development and communications at Abrams.