Israel's Model of Engineering Education Comes To American Jewish High Schools

Two-Year CIJE Program Runs in 27 Schools Across Country

Solving Electrical Problems: Students work on engineering projects as part of the CIJE initiative.
CIJE
Solving Electrical Problems: Students work on engineering projects as part of the CIJE initiative.

By Andrew Brownstein

Published February 09, 2014, issue of February 07, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

The classrooms that Adam Jerozolim visits each week don’t have neat rows of desks and chairs. There are no teachers standing at the front.

Instead, he said, they each “look like a mad scientist’s lab”: computer chips everywhere; a mass of light bulbs, Legos and circuit boards strewn about. The students are huddled around tables, staring into laptops, as they discuss their latest creations. The teachers move around, coaching them and answering questions.

They are all participating in a new program run by the Center for Initiatives in Jewish Education, designed to adapt Israel’s highly successful model of high school engineering education to Jewish schools in the United States. While President Obama and others have decried the slippage of American students in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math — STEM for short — it is rare to find a full-fledged engineering classroom outside higher education.

Begun in 2011, the two-year program currently operates in 27 schools, in areas ranging from California to North Carolina. Jerozolim, a professional engineer who once designed hydraulic systems for nuclear submarines, serves as a mentor to teachers in 12 schools in the New York City area that participate in the program.

“We’re definitely ahead of the curve,” he told the Forward in a telephone interview. “We’re a full-fledged, 100% STEM integration.”

The approach is practically unheard of in the United States, where advanced placement courses in STEM are just beginning at the high school level. Engineering — the “E” part of the acronym — often gets short shrift.

Discussing engineering, a 2009 report by the National Academy of Engineering and the National Research Council said that “few people even think of it as a K–12 subject.” The report called engineering “almost invisible” in schools. That is changing slowly. The College Board is exploring an advanced placement engineering course; also, pre-collegiate engineering programs, like Project Lead the Way’s Pathway to Engineering and Engineering is Elementary, have grown in recent years.

The advantage of the CIJE-Tech Engineering and Bio-medical Technology program is that it builds on one of Israel’s most successful educational experiments. CIJE’s program is adapted and licensed from the Israel Sci-Tech Schools Network, also known as ORT Israel. Founded in 1949, shortly after Israel’s founding, Sci-Tech is the largest nongovernmental school system in the country, enrolling one out of every 10 high school students and producing the largest number of practical engineers in Israel.

The CIJE program contains scant traditional front-of-the room teaching. Instead, classes revolve around solving practical problems that students work on in teams. As such, the program reflects a growing movement in education to reflect a world where the knowledge that teachers and textbooks once transmitted is now instantly accessible by smartphone.

“I don’t think I teach anymore, so much as coach,” said Danny Aviv, a teacher at the Solomon Schechter School of Westchester, in Hartsdale, N.Y. “I teach rudimentary concepts in programming, electronics and physics, and then say to students, ‘Let’s think of an idea and do it.’”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.