Using Lego to build a relationship between students in Eilat and Toronto

By Dr. Amy Platt

Grade 5 students at Toronto’s Bialik Hebrew Day School have engaged in a tremendous challenge; one that has them integrating their thinking and skills about science, the environment, robotics, math, social responsibility, collaboration and problem solving. As if this wasn't powerful enough, this project has been layered with an international connection.  Over a four month time span from February to May, Bialik’s Grade 5 students will spend multiple hours each month working on a Lego Green City Robotic challenges.  These are standardized Lego challenges that are being worked on at the same time, using the same Lego set, by children in schools all over the world.  Our energies are focused on how the students at the Galim School in Eilat are solving robotics challenges, what they can teach us, and what we can teach them. 

This unique partnership is the result of UJA Federation’s STEM Twinning initiative that is made possible through the collaboration of UJA Federation’s Israel team, its Israel Engagement Committee, and its overseas partner, the Jewish Agency for Israel. The Stem twinning initiative represents the next frontier of leveraging of the Israel and Overseas Committee’s investment in STEM education. The vision is to extend the highest quality STEM educational experience to Toronto students, while forming relationships between peers in Israel and Toronto, and growing the number of local and Israeli partners involved.

The Lego Robotics unit is part of a larger unit about forces acting on structures and types of sustainable energy that students are mandated to learn as part of the Grade 5 Ontario curriculum.  The revised unit, with the inclusion of the EV3 Lego robots, has made the curriculum more engaging and relevant.  The connection with Israel has helped students see a modern side of Israel - both in terms of the technology they have created and in terms of the students who are living there now. As part of the project, students share notes and challenge solutions in a joint Google classroom space. The Bialik students are excited to share their learning and their findings with their Galim partners.  They are even more excited to get a message back.  At the conclusion of the program students will have another digital face to face conversation.  Here they will share solutions they have come up with to an environmental challenge that is facing their partner city.  Hopefully as they develop the solutions they will draw on some of the learning they have done through Green City and apply it to a new context. 

The partnership with Galim and Eilat has pushed the Bialik Grade 5 team to think beyond their curriculum and develop something integrated and better than the sum of the parts.