Gruss Foundation Awards Central Major STEM Grant

Yeshiva University High School for Girls Receives $191,000 for STEM Education

The Samuel H. Wang Yeshiva University High School for Girls (Central) recently received $191,000 grant from the Gruss Foundation to put in place an innovative STEM program (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) that increases girls’ participation in disciplines that have been traditionally dominated by males.

The mission of the Gruss Foundation is to improve secular education in Jewish schools in the New York City and Long Island areas. The grant was the fruit of on-going discussions between Central and Gruss about how to make the school the model for improved standards and best practices in STEM instruction for Yeshivot and Jewish day schools.

Students visit the Brooklyn Navy Yard as part of Central’s ACE Mentor Program (Marci Karoll).

CB Neugroschl, head of school at Central and one of the grant’s architects, sees Gruss’ investment in STEM education as creating “the next generation of Central students, who will able to apply a new holistic way of thinking to everything they study, making them more than ready for the challenges of the coming century. Equally important is inspiring the girls to make careers in the STEM disciplines so that we can correct the unequal distribution of women in these fields.”

This is not the first initiative Central has undertaken to promote STEM learning. In 2008, Central began the Science Institute, a program that offers qualified students the chance to concentrate their studies on scientific subjects and methods. In 2010, the school received a $10,000 grant from the National Science Teachers Association to support the Institute.

The Gruss grant, however, will give Central an unprecedented opportunity to expand STEM education both inside and outside the school—multiplying the number of extracurricular activities open to the girls, such as the ACE (Architecture, Construction and Engineering) Mentor Program and Girls Who Code. It will provide support for students to enter more STEM competitions and internships, extending an already impressive history of students interning at prestigious organizations and becoming semi-finalists, finalists and winners in such renowned competitions as Intel, Siemens, New York City Science and Engineering Fair, New York State Science and Engineering Fair, the International Science and Engineering Fair, Urban DNA Barcoding Project, and Jerusalem Science Contest.

The grant will also enable Central to construct a Maker Space/STEM Lab, where the equipment (including leading-edge 3D printers), professional development and teaching methods will all be state-of-the-art. Students will also have multiple new opportunities to demonstrate mastery of their knowledge utilizing their STEM skills in core courses and through creative initiatives which may include a Maker Faire, STEM Festival, a Torah Umadda Day, and a school-wide hackathon.

Central students present their research at the New York City Urban Barcode Project competition.

But the true heart of the program is not the new “stuff,” which, as Neugroschl pointed out, “are just implements, tools. What we want to accomplish is to inculcate in students an intellectual habit of mind, to sharpen their power to analyze, develop, assess, integrate and synthesize so that they can become active learners and authentic producers of content. We want to infuse this habit of mind throughout the whole curriculum, whether that’s biology or English, history or Judaic studies.”

Ruth Fried, chairperson of the science department and director of the Science Institute, is proud to note that “Central has always been on the cutting edge of women’s science education, and this grant allows us to integrate STEM project-based learning into every discipline, which also allows our students to better prepare for the changing world around them.”

Marci Karoll, director of educational technology, agrees, adding that “integrating STEM subjects into the curriculum offers students the opportunity to gain skills that will be crucial for successful career options because they will be able to identify problems in all areas of life and society and use the STEM subjects to respond creatively.”