In celebration of Tu B’shvat, the new year of the trees, students at MWJDS embarked on an exciting journey. They were challenged to construct a tree, solely out of newspaper and masking tape, which would be freestanding, at least 5 feet tall, and have at least 9 branches. Students were divided into two groups, Team Willow and Team Birch.

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With an eye towards STEM initiatives, the students first had a chance to learn about the engineering design process. They studied the steps that engineers take when they are presented with a problem they have to solve. Using this process, they began to plan their designs for the trees. Each group came up with a unique and beautiful solution to this challenge.

Team Birch jumped right into the design process. Each member of the team shared their ideas about how they could best meet the challenge. Once the ideas were on the table, there was a great deal of negotiating and combining ideas to come up with the beginnings of a plan. Team Birch divided into two groups. One group built the sturdy base for the tree, while the other group worked on creating rolls of newspaper. They combined these rolls into longer rolls, to create the pieces that would become the trunk. When both groups had completed their pieces, they came together to attach the trunk to its roots. Finally, branches were added to complete this beautiful birch-like tree.

created at: 2012-03-02 

created at: 2012-03-02

Team Willow sat down together to begin the planning process, and share their initial ideas. They quickly came to realize that they were each using different words to describe the same thing, and it was getting confusing. So, they decided to coin some new vocabulary. Five rolls of newspaper taped together became a “bundle.” Team Willow began with everyone creating many rolls of newspaper. Once they had accumulated a critical mass, some people began to tape the rolls together into bundles. Bundles were then joined together to create the base for the trunk of their tree. This team built their trunk in three sections. The higher they built, the more they realized they needed to strengthen their roots. The group worked together to build strong roots at the same time as they were building height. They ended up with a tree close to 8 feet tall!

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This project was a result of MetroWest Jewish Day School’s involvement in CJP’s Initiative for Day School Excellence and the Gelfand Family Trust STEM grant. Thirteen day schools from the greater Boston, North Shore, and Metrowest are part of the Gelfand/CJP project.

MWJDS shared this unique “jSTEM” effort with participants from other day schools and the program’s directors at a collaborative meeting held at MWJDS last night.

 created at: 2012-03-02