June 24, 2005 -- In a bold initiative designed to revolutionize the way math and science are taught in middle schools and to motivate students to consider careers in the sciences – and ultimately to help maintain America’s leadership role in innovation and technology -- the South Area Solomon Schechter Day School (SASSDS), an independent school in Stoughton, Mass., has announced a novel, inquiry-based curriculum delivery system to be launched in the 2005-06 school year. Planners hope it catches on across the country.
“ Planting seeds now is a vital investment that is critical to the entire economy and our country’s continued leadership in innovation, technology and medicin... ”
Two leading researchers and educators have been named Co-Directors to lead the project: Dr. Nitzan Resnick, vascular researcher in the Pathology Department at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and a Visiting Professor at Harvard Medical School; and Dr. Shai Simonson, professor of Computer Science at Stonehill College, and an SASSDS Middle School Math teacher who has received numerous research grants, including from the National Science Foundation. Both are parents of SASSDS students. The independent Conservative Jewish day school enrolls 230 boys and girls in grades K – 8 from a dozen communities south and west of Boston. Families are attracted to the school for its integrated secular and Jewish education
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A combination of private donations – including a pacesetting seed-money gift from one student’s grandfather -- and grants will provide some $250,000 in funding for staffing and equipment for the first two years of the program. It is expected that new science, math and computing labs will be a key part of a new school facility expected to be ready during 2007-08.
Head of School Jane Cohen says the initiative will motivate students in math and science studies and help them to become more creative thinkers. She says, “The U.S. has fallen behind the rest of the world when it comes to science and math education. Planting seeds now is a vital investment that is critical to the entire economy and our country’s continued leadership in innovation, technology and medicine.”
Under the new program, Middle School students will have an opportunity for intensive additional science and math classes each week throughout the school year. As the program progresses, SASSDS will sponsor a Science and Math Camp
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featuring school faculty as well as advisors and mentors from world-renowned higher-education institutions. The new curriculum will be integrated in two phases, allowing its co-directors time to design and implement professional development and assessment tools, and to insert novel technological tools in a cost-effective, validated, high quality manner.
A key component of the initiative is its multidisciplinary approach, so that a unit on genetics will spill over into most other classes: math, computer science, language
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arts, humanities (ethics and law), economics, Rabbinics (religion), and Israel (latest research). Teachers of all subjects in the Middle School will be involved in the project.
The plan comes on the heels of a survey prepared for Boston’s Day School Advocacy Forum (DAF) showing that, among Jewish parents in Greater Boston who want their children to have a strong Jewish education without sacrificing other subject areas, 89% said a ‘quality math and science program’ is the most important attribute they look for in a school. At the same time, many perceive a weakness in the math and science areas in Jewish day schools. “This misperception often prevents parents from enrolling their children in Jewish day schools,” Cohen notes.
Co-Director Shai Simonson says that among his goals are “to make science and math interesting and relevant, to teach children to be critical thinkers and to the right kinds of questions, and to make math and science fun.” Nitzan Resnick hopes the program will create more enthusiastic students who take a more active role in the classroom. “Perhaps they would develop creative scientific thinking, and develop a commitment to a career in science.”
The DAF survey suggests that boosting Jewish day school enrollment by 10% among Greater Boston’s 14 Jewish day schools is an achievable goal. To do so, it must be shown to parents of school-age children that day schools can provide an equally high quality math, science and English curriculum as private schools.
Dr. Resnick earned B.S., Master’s and Ph.D. degrees at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University. Widely published in scholarly journals, she has received numerous awards including the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Faculty of Medicine Award and a Teaching Award from Technion Medical School in Haifa. She and husband Murray have a son who is entering grade seven at SASSDS..
Shai Simonson earned his B.A. from Columbia University, and a Master’s and Ph.D. in Computer Science from Northwestern University. A teacher for over 20 years, he has received numerous research grants, including from the National Science Foundation, and has given seminars to people who write math textbooks on how to make them “more pertinent, more alive, more relevant to everyday life.” He and his wife Andrea have three sons enrolled at SASSDS.
The South Area Schechter Day School is gearing up for a major capital campaign to fund a modern facility in the South Area. In conjunction with the new science and math initiative, plans will include a science lab, an array of technology tools and a multimedia classroom.
The school enrolls 230 boys and girls in grades K – 8 from a dozen South Area communities. It provides a uniquely integrated curriculum that blends the highest quality secular and Conservative Jewish education. The school is accredited by the Association of Independent Schools in New England (AISNE). For enrollment information for 2005-06: (781) 341-8040, or visit www.sassds.org.
- By Stanley Hurwitz
ScienceMathCurric_05.doc smh rev. 6/05
South Area Solomon Schechter Day School
Stoughton, Massachusetts 02072