New Albany News

CJDS building curriculum with robotics course


The Columbus Jewish Day School in New Albany has started a robotics program through a partnership with Battelle and the Wasserstrom Co.'s science and technology fund.

"We are very excited to have this program to enrich the educational environment for our students," said Judy Miller, head of schools.

Miller said the program began this year in kindergarten through third grades. It is a pilot program, called the Battelle Early Childhood Robotics Program at CJDS, which could be demonstrated to other schools next year. Battelle is a nonprofit applied science and technology development company headquartered in Columbus.

Like the other courses at the CJDS, the robotics course is integrated within the curriculum, which combines Jewish teachings with courses taught in English and Hebrew.

"The teachers are including more STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) in the curriculum," Miller said. "We're trying to get children thinking about science and math and understanding what role (STEM) plays in their lives."

During one of the recent classes, students were challenged to think about machines they encounter every day.

They learned that automatic doors, which open and close as people approach them, are operated by a sensor that was developed by an engineer and uses computer technology.

"You could just see the lights going on (in their minds)," Miller said. "There are so many things in our daily lives that were designed by an engineer.

"We're not just educating students for the world. We want them to be able to help change the world and be empowered by understanding those tools."

The students will use Lego blocks in class to build robots.

CJDS parent volunteers and teachers trained for the work in the class with Marina Bers from Tufts University, who developed early childhood STEM programs, Miller said.

Bers uses "constructivist pedagogical theory," a learning process that emphasizes firsthand learning experiences.

"Very often, STEM programs are competitive and held as clubs to enrich the classroom environment," Miller said. "We believe that the children need to be exposed to this teaching at an early age."

The Battelle Early Childhood Robotics Program at CJDS is sponsored in part by Wasserstrom's science and technology fund.

Miller said funds from Wasserstrom, a Columbus-based restaurant supply company, could be used next year to institute robotics in grades four to six.