ST2EM: STEM Squared with Torah
In the fall of 2017, Yeshivah of Flatbush set out to build upon our STEM program for grades 1–8. We decided to make our program unique by adding another “T” for “Torah” in STEM and created ST2EM (pronounced “STEM Squared”). We wanted our students to make connections from the Torah to STEM learning. Our goal was to develop a STEM lesson framework that we could train our teachers to use in the classroom. ST2EM lessons would contain a hands-on activity and a culminating assessment during a 40-minute class period and would include teaching our students about STEM careers. We needed our STEM program to expand the scope, quality and richness of the teaching, learning and educational technology at our yeshivah, while requiring professional development that would impact student achievement with measurable data.
Our next step was to find the right educational technology integration model to align our framework and professional development for our teachers. After much research, we chose the TPACK model, which identifies three types of knowledge that our teachers need to combine for successful educational technology and ST2EM integration: technological, pedagogical and content knowledge.
Then we created the ST2EM framework in such a way that our teachers could easily draw up a 40-minute lesson. The lesson had be designed so that a teacher of any of the relevant disciplines could implement it in the classroom. The framework included the following components: Lesson Title, Objectives, NGSS Standards/Next Generation Common Core/NYC STEM Framework Alignment, Science Concepts, Technology Concepts, Torah Concepts, Engineering Concepts, Math Concepts, Problem/Challenge, Materials, Introduction & Alignment to STEM Career(s), Hands-on Task, Student Share and Assessment.
We tested the ST2EM framework, beginning with a Torah concept and building the lesson from there. We chose to focus on bitter herbs (Bemidbar 9:11). Science Concept: Photosynthesis and Hydroponic Growing of Romaine Lettuce. Technology Concept: Grobo (app-controlled home growing system that is intended to make growing small batches of organic produce easier) and Google Earth. Engineering Concept: Design a hydroponic garden on a house rooftop in Brooklyn. Math Concept: Area = length times width (rectangle).
The teacher writes a measurable objective, aligns the STEM career of irrigation technician and creates the task: to design and build a hydroponic garden on a rooftop on a Brooklyn home. The structure must be able to hold water. Working in teams of four or five, students using Google Earth can locate one of their homes, take measurements, then draft and build their structure with cardboard, tape, poster board, paper, paper clips and other materials, testing that it can hold 5 ounces of water. At the end, the teacher creates a one-page exit ticket that mentions solving a math problem using area and asking an open-ended question about the project.
We provided ongoing professional development to our science teachers to help them develop ST2EM lessons in the framework and to teach those lessons in their classrooms. The ST2EM framework helped the teachers to manage the time of the lesson and keep the students engaged and on task. Today, the ST2EM framework continues to impact students’ ability to make authentic connections between these disciplines. We have now trained Torah studies teachers, math teachers and our technology teacher in ST2EM Framework and TPACK.
As a result of our ST2EM Framework, we have a robust STEM program for grades 1–8 that flows into our high school STEM, coding, robotics and AP computer science courses. ST2EM has allowed our students to be exposed to STEM careers and STEM instruction in a program that values Torah studies. This integrated approach has helped students make connections across disciplines, to real life and to the Torah.