GOLDA OCH ACADEMY (GOA) in West Orange is the recipient of a three-year $500,000 STEM Innovation grant from the Gottesman Fund in New York City. The grant will help GOA fulfill the Educational Innovation pillar of its five-year strategic plan, which aims to expand and enhance student-centered and inquiry-oriented innovation throughout the day school.
To implement the strategy, GOA has developed Project Moonshot, a multi-faceted plan that draws many of its components from the school’s STEM program, with four core elements: giving students 21st-century skills, creating a culture of innovation, building collaboration, and focusing on tikkun olam (repair of the world). Innovation leaders for the project are upper school Science Department chair Paul-Michael Huseman and director of STEM education Dr. Shira Kelmanovich.
“Through the STEM program model, students are able to address problems in society that interest them and then use the engineering design process to create innovative solutions,” said Kelmanovich. “The experience of working collaboratively to problem solve gives them confidence to face the unknown and embrace failure as a learning opportunity. This model has been tremendously successful with our STEM students, and we look forward to expanding it to additional areas of our school.”
Kelmanovich started the school’s four-year STEM program, which includes engineering, computer programming, electronics, 3D design and fabrication, and original capstone projects.
Huseman and Kelmanovich will help other departments incorporate project-based and student-centered learning into other disciplines and will also oversee a “GO For It” fund, allowing teachers to apply for resources to carry out innovative ideas and best practices. Their mission, said Huseman, “is to expose all of our students to high-quality STEM education and this model of collaborative learning.”
Stephanie Bash-Soudry, GOA’s director of institutional advancement, expressed the school’s gratitude to the Gottesman Fund for “the tremendous faith they have in us as a leading Jewish day school at the forefront of STEM education.”
GOA head of school Adam Shapiro said, “I have no doubt that Project Moonshot has been, and will continue to be, a transformational project for our school.”