Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato, accompanied by Chief of Staff, Amanda Kernozek, and Annie Watman and Sydney Altfield of Teach NYS, visited Midreshet Shalhevet last week to see the STEM curriculum. Sarah Yastrab, parent of current MSH junior Nava as well as alumnus Tamar (MSH ‘16), arranged the visit. “To know that we have such amazing support in Albany is very heartwarming as a parent,” she said as she addressed the visitors.
“Our STEM curriculum is a testament to our commitment to our students. It is an expensive commitment that we understand is of paramount importance, which is why we have undertaken our current program and continue to expand it each and every year,” shared Menahelet Esther Eisenman. “These are young ladies who love to learn!”
After a luncheon with Assemblywoman Pheffer Amato, Rosh HaYeshiva Rabbi Zev Meir Friedman, Menahelet Esther Eisenman, and the Teach NYS representatives, the guests were treated to a display of numerous projects some of the STEM students have been working on this year.
The girls pointed out all the skills that they have used and gained from their STEM classes this year: creativity, practical applications of math, problem-solving, language skills, and multitasking.
Freshmen Leah Cohen and Ayala Feder are students in the required ninth-grade coding class. They displayed the websites they have been working all year to build, and explained the coding they learned behind what they built.
Sophomores Leah Rubin and Tal Gaon demonstrated the robotic hand they built from scratch, which opens and closes just like a real “creepy hand.” They explained how they wired each part and attached it to a motor, and then coded it exactly how to move. They then joined sophomore Avigayil Roffe to present the giant menorah their class built for Chanukah. It is over four feet tall, built out of PVC pipe, painted, and wired and coded to be an actual working menorah.
Tal Gaon also presented an app for searching for and getting recommendations for books to read. She described how she built the algorithm to quantify what types of books a person would be interested in, and then how the app can recommend books you might want to read.
Junior Becky Haviv built a coding system that uses a machine which plays tones to the tune of “Happy Birthday.”
Junior Hadassah Krigsman exhibited a two-person robotic game she built, where LED lights travel down a track towards each player, and the player has to press the button to stop the lights before they get to the end. In consecutive rounds, the lights travel faster and faster, and the “fastest finger” wins.
Juniors Becky Haviv, Shifra Chait, and Sima Bochner demonstrated the mousetrap vehicle they constructed for the Science Olympiad this year. The car is wound up, and then must travel forwards and backwards on its own, using only the energy generated from mouse traps.
Assemblywoman Pheffer Amato had such a wonderful time connecting with her young constituents, and being able to see the funding dollars she works so hard for — in action. “It is my job to fight so that the schools get the money they need, so that you can have this wonderful education. It is so special that you showed me what you have been learning, so I can take that message up to my colleagues in Albany and tell them we are creating the next generation. We are investing in our students. I think more people need to see the special atmosphere of Midreshet Shalhevet. It is where our best investment is going. I am so thrilled that I came here today. I think that the STEM funding that Teach NYS is pushing is something that everyone can embrace, because it benefits all of the nonpublic schools in a district, which is a revenue generator and increases property values.” she shared.
Rabbi Zev Meir Friedman commended the girls on putting the mission of Midreshet Shalhevet into practice by not giving up, by showing determination to self-start and figure out solutions to the challenges they faced. Assemblywoman Pheffer Amato chimed in, and applauded the students for showing that they are those “go-getters, doers, and achievers.”
The MSH STEM teachers really said it best. “It gives me so much satisfaction to see the girls proud of the work they have done!” said Sarah Meyer, ninth-grade coding teacher.
Aliza Feder, who heads the Midreshet Shalhevet STEM curriculum, shared, “I was so proud of the Midreshet Shalhevet students as they gave an eloquent and animated presentation of the projects that they have been working on during the year. Two themes stressed by Assemblywoman Amato, which the STEM students have experienced firsthand, were persistence and problem-solving. STEM activities specifically target these two important themes. Persistence and then problem-solving were key components to get all of the projects to work. Most importantly, both of these themes are necessary to be successful in school, in life, and in every profession.”
“The students had a great experience interacting with Assemblywoman Pheffer Amato.” she continued. “She was so friendly and encouraging. She laughed a lot with them and created a very warm and open atmosphere, while admiring the work they put into the projects they presented. She left them feeling empowered to pursue whatever profession interests them while also balancing a family.”
Mrs. Eisenman shared a few words after the visit was over. “It gave me great pride to see our students describe to Ms. Pheffer Amato the websites and engineering projects they designed and executed using coding and engineering skills. Their passion for STEM was palpable as they walked us through the steps they took to create their work. They evidenced learning of not only coding and engineering, but also perseverance, problem-solving, and collaboration, all skills Ms. Pheffer Amato noted were critical for the 21st-century workplace. Ms. Amato, in turn, demonstrated for our students a moment of the political process at its best: reaching out to constituents and witnessing firsthand what is being accomplished with funds allocated by the Assembly in Albany. I can certainly say that our school was enriched by the assemblywoman’s visit. We thank her and welcome her back any time!”