07 Apr STEAMfest 2017

A group of first grade students displayed the winter scooter they designed that glides over ice and drops a trail of salt behind it. They created this prototype to help prevent people from slipping on the ice. Another group, of third grade students, showed how the seat cushion they designed vibrates every 30 minutes to remind the user to stand up and move around. The students created this to encourage their friends and teachers to not sit for too long. And eighth graders presented the robot they built that can plant seeds in the rain forest. The robot can dig holes, drop seeds, and cover the holes with soil.  All of this happened this afternoon at the annual Schechter Manhattan STEAMfest.


STEAMfest is our community celebration of STEAM. STEAM is more than an acronym representing the integration of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math studies. At Schechter Manhattan we have always believed that people learn best when they engage directly with phenomenon in the world, ideas, texts, and difficult questions and work together to figure them out for themselves. STEAM is an extension of those educational aspirations reframed for the 21st century. STEAM learning starts with identifying authentic problems and challenges and then moves forward with bringing the knowledge and skills from those disciplines together to design and implement solutions.  STEAM learning includes careful reflection on designs, prototypes, and models in an effort to find the weaknesses and errors in a solution and to then create something new, effective, and elegant.


Students throughout the school have been preparing projects for STEAMfest for weeks.  The school wide learning project was kicked off by our 8th grade students, who prepared this video to get everyone excited for STEAMfest 2017. This year students considered the idea of movement, which served as a common theme for all of the problems considered and projects developed. Students brainstormed problems that can be solved through understanding and working with movement, using driving questions related to curricular areas and developmental stages of each grade. For example, Gan students thought about the question, why is movement important?; 4th grade students considered, does movement require coordination?; and 6th grade students asked, how can we overcome limitations through movement?  The students looked through the lenses of these questions to think of examples, causes, applications, and implications of movement.


With some ideas in mind, the students then conducted research, using print and digital resources and guidance from their teachers to learn more about their topics of interest. The research helped the students to come up with concrete ideas for how their questions could be looked at through a STEAM lens. They then chose a project to proceed with, found like-minded peers to collaborate with, and began planning. They clarified the purposes of their projects and what real-world problems they would  solve.  They developed their own schematic drawings, blueprints, plans, and written procedure for their projects, and identified at least two elements of STEAM that would be represented in the projects. They compiled lists of the materials they would need to build their projects.


With plans ready, the students worked in their groups to build their creations. A couple of weeks ago there was an hour when the entire school was building at the same time, and the school was filled with a powerful energy of creativity, collaboration, and problem solving. As they built, students were encouraged to assess if their plans were working or if adjustments needed to be made. Once they had a first iteration of their projects ready, they tested their designs. They shared their projects with peers, asking for feedback so that they could identify areas for refinement. They took time to fix any issues they noticed and finalize their projects so that they were “presentation ready”. Today, at STEAMfest, they presented their work to each other, with much enthusiasm and thoughtfulness.


STEAMfest is only one element of the Lieberman Family STEAM Center, which is having a transformative impact on teaching and learning throughout Schechter Manhattan. Thank you to Eileen and Jerry Lieberman for their vision and leadership in making the STEAM Center possible.  Thank you also to Allison Levine, our STEAM Coordinator, who leads the STEAM initiative throughout the school, and whose efforts led the faculty and students through the amazing STEAMfest process.  And thank you to the Schechter Manhattan teachers, who have embraced STEAM as an important element of their practice and who are guiding our students to ever deeper levels of understanding and higher levels of achievement.


The design thinking and engineering that students engaged through STEAMfest is nurturing their 21st century skills: critical thinking, collaborating, communicating, connecting, and creating.  These are the capacities that Schechter Manhattan students will take with them as they grow into the problem solvers of the future.

Benjamin Mann

Author’s Chair

Each week we feature the written work of our students. We hope you will stop by every week and see what they are writing and thinking about.



Gan students have been working on writing nonfiction books about their passions.


You jump

You jump.
You run.
You tuck in.
You swing.



I am mixing the batter.
Me and my mom are using ingredients.




You nail things together.
You can paint.
It comes with sandpaper.
You can make a cabin.


Kitah Bet

The Kitah Bet students came up with advice for the Kitah Aleph students on how to be a better reader.

Click here to see work by Sacha, Tsofia, Orli, Liat, and Dex.


Kitah Dalet

Students in Kitah Dalet have been writing poetry, using poetic devices and drawing inspiration from observations, other poets, as well as things that are important to them.

Click here to see work by Ari, Ella, Yhonatan, Hannah, Annabelle, and Yadin.


Kitah Vav

After learning about the knights in the Middle Ages, students created their own Coat of Arms. In addition, they wrote a paragraph explaining the symbolic meaning behind the colors and figures they chose to include in their Coat of Arms.

Click here to see work by TalAlon, and Sarah.