By Maayan Jaffe/JNS.org
Picture a mad science lab with electrical wires, computer chords, ropes, and wheels and you have a pretty good picture of one of the country’s more than 20 CIJE-Tech laboratories.
CIJE, the Center for Initiatives in Jewish Education, is a non-profit organization that provides advanced classroom technology and laboratories, engaging STEM curricula, teacher training, and vital support that fosters academic innovation and excellence in Jewish day schools and yeshivot across North America. Started in 2001 in 15 schools and with 3,000 students, today the program is in 148 institutions, reaching more than 30,000 students in grades 1 through 12.
On Feb. 12, a group of close to 40 new and first-year CIJE educators travels to Israel for several days of hands-on training from the scientists, engineers, and educators who created the programs CIJE adopted in the U.S. This is the third year such a trip has taken place. According to CIJE Vice President Judy Lebowitz, the teachers will take on the role of students and get a taste of how the Israeli school system operates, a system that has churned out many of the innovators and entrepreneurs that make Israel the “start-up nation.”
The board of Gruss Life Monument Funds had the idea for CIJE in the late 1990s. Jason Curry, then the president and CEO of Gruss and now the head of CIJE, said the Gruss board was concerned that students educated in Jewish day schools were not being adequately prepared for success in the 21st century. The committee researched different opportunities, and in 2001 launched a computer assisted instruction program in 15 Jewish elementary schools. Soon after, it launched its Excellence 2000 (E2K) math and science program for middle school students. By 2008, the program had grown so large—and the initiative so focused—that CIJE was established as an independent 501(c)(3) charitable organization.
Its newest program, CIJE-Tech, was born in 2011. This, according to Curry, is a discovery-focused, interactive two-year curriculum in scientific and biomedical engineering, which exposes students to …read more