In a world where cutting-edge technology influences our daily lives, it is important to expose today’s students to the myriad opportunities available to them. At Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls they are doing just that. Since its inception into the core curriculum, the STEAM Program (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics) has grown by leaps and bounds. Spearheaded by Co-Directors Mrs. Gila Stein and Mrs. Orly Nadler, and under the guidance of Principal Rivka Kahan, this progressive program fosters empowerment of women and imparts on students the confidence and determination to succeed.
Last week Ma’ayanot hosted a ceremony dedicating the school’s new Maker Space Engineering Lab in honor of Dr. Rosalyn Yalow, a famous and influential Jewish scientist who won a Nobel Prize in Medicine. Pam Ennis, director of development at Ma’ayanot, noted as she looked out into the audience that this was a “teachable moment about values and belief in Jewish education.” Participants included five representatives from The Jewish Federation as well as two foundations interested in the issue of STEAM education at yeshivot. With tremendous gratitude to various donors that include parents and alumni, Ma’ayanot was fortunate enough to create a Maker Space Lab that serves as the hub of the STEAM Program. It is an innovative, project-based student center where the girls can create.
The program began with two winning poems composed about the Nobel Prize winner and recited by students Yael Bruk and Arielle Borger. “She was the one she among 400 he’s.” A valuable lesson to a school of close to 300 pioneering women. Beat discrimination, believe in yourself and always follow your dreams was a fundamental message presented throughout this ceremony.
Principal Rivka Kahan defined the STEAM Program along with the Maker Space Lab as a trail-blazing segment of the school’s curriculum. In just over a year, a dream became a reality, with a standard of excellence so high that other schools send students and faculty alike to observe the program. The program’s main focus is on engineering, coding and robotics and is required for all students in ninth and tenth grade. By making these courses mandatory, it is the belief that the students will be inspired and prepared to pursue careers in these fields. “In order to succeed in the 21st century, they need STEAM skills,” articulated Gila Stein.
The event featured keynote speaker Mr. Benjamin Yalow, son of Dr. Rosalyn Yalow, who addressed the students, faculty and invited guests about his mother and her remarkable accomplishments. Mr. Yalow offered the audience insight into his mother’s professional and personal lives, noting that the two were often intertwined. As a young adult she was mentored at Hunter College by a group inspiring her to join the scientific community. As women in this field were not widely accepted at that point in time, she opted to become a secretary at Columbia University in 1941 in the hope of obtaining a degree there. However, things changed significantly as World War II broke out and men were drafted, creating more opportunities for women. It was then that Dr. Yalow turned in her stenographer’s pad and headed to the University of Illinois to become a scientist. Dr. Yalow was a medical physicist and won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for development of radioimmunoassay (RIA), a technique that revolutionized research and clinical practice in many areas including diabetes and cancer detection.
“While the Nobel Prize gave her more notability and popularity, she was still a working scientist,” Mr. Yalow explained. “The data is what she defended, it was all that mattered. When the data spoke she would listen.” Mr. Yalow remembers his mother as a woman who was driven to succeed and make the world a better place. She was totally committed to both her professional life and her personal life. She literally travelled back and forth between the two on a very regular basis, tending to her research whenever time allowed and caring for her family as necessary.
Talia Simpson proudly presented Mr. Yalow with the prize-winning portrait she drew of his mother. Ma’ayanot extended one to Mr. Yalow’s sister as well, and a wood-cut version created on the school’s laser cutter will be displayed in the laboratory. Mr. Yalow was honored with cutting the ribbon at the entrance to the lab as guests were invited to tour the new Maker Space and experience firsthand some of the fascinating technology the students are involved with on a daily basis. Mrs. Reyce Krause demonstrated various projects the students have been immersed in. From wearable technology to three-dimensional bracelets, the motto around the lab is “if you can think it you can make it.” Students are encouraged to look around at what is available to them and see what they can creatively produce. “Today we celebrate the space to tinker and code,” expressed Orly Nadler. “The tools are important, but it is really about the creative canvas.”
Mr. Yalow was touched by the dedication ceremony. “I was really appreciative of the honor done to my mother by the dedication. A chance to increase the science education of young girls and potentially having some become scientists as a result of that was one of my mother’s major goals outside of her research,” Mr. Yalow expressed. Dr. Yalow’s achievements are an inspiration to her family, friends and the Ma’ayanot students who aspire to succeed in the STEAM fields. Therefore, it is with tremendous pride that Ma’ayanot chose the name of such a prestigious influence on Jewish women and the sciences to adorn their new Maker Space Laboratory.
By Andrea Nissel