The Columbus Jewish Day School's 89 students in kindergarten to sixth grades went back to school Aug. 20.
The students will continue an elementary robotics pilot program, now in its third year, and will participate in environmental programs taught outside in the school's butterfly garden, organic vegetable garden and riparian zone, according to school officials.
The robotics program started two years ago in a partnership with Battelle for students in kindergarten to third grade, said Rachel Hillman, a spokeswoman for the school.
Hillman said a fundraising campaign initiated through the Wasserstrom Science and Technology Fund raised $24,000 to expand the program to include fourth to sixth grades. The private Wasserstrom fund matched every dollar parents contributed for the initiative, she said.
All of the school's students use Lego blocks to build robotic parts, which are attached to a hub and connected to a computer that students use to program the robot's movements.
Hillman said kindergartners have built robotic flags that simulate a flag waving in the wind. One sixth-grader, when studying Ohio tourism and specifically Cleveland's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, created a robot that strummed a guitar.
"It teaches engineering and programming and all students have to partner with another student and learn how to collaborate, disagree and communicate -- all those skills they need to survive in the workplace," Hillman said. "You have to know how to disagree and problem-solve."
Hillman said the Columbus Jewish Day School is an example for other schools of how to fully integrate robotics into an elementary school's curriculum.
Expansion of the school's environmental education is new but actually started last year with the formation of an environmental-education committee.
Hillman said the committee comprises parents, staff and sixth-graders "who are challenged with (devising) new ways to enhance our environmental curriculum."
She said the program will expand on things students already do, such as growing organic vegetables donated to homeless teens at the Ohio State University Star House.
"Our students can learn about giving and growing and how to help within our community," Hillman said.
She said Judaism teaches people to take care of Earth and repair the world in addition to being good citizens, lessons that could be expanded as new environmental programs are added.
Hillman said this year's enrollment is about nine fewer students than last year.
The students are drawn from central Ohio, including the communities of Bexley, Clintonville, Dublin, Grove City, Powell and New Albany.
The Columbus Jewish Day School is at 150 E. Dublin-Granville Road in New Albany.