In a matter of days, Pittsburgh-area schools will open their doors to welcome students and teachers to the start of another school year. But a group of educators will head back to school armed with a professional experience abroad that has opened their minds: a seminar trip to Israel to study science, technology, engineering and math, known as STEM subjects in academic and research circles.
Pittsburgh-based nonprofit Classrooms Without Borders (CWB) sponsored the 21 educators who spent 12 days exploring Israel's cutting-edge technology through visits to facilities such as the Asher Space Research Institute; the Rambam Hospital underground emergency crisis center; the factory that produces the Iron-Dome technology; Israeli branches of Intel, Microsoft and Google; Palestinian startup companies; and the Jewish-Arab Nazareth Industrial Park.
Principals and teachers on the trip represented 20 private, charter and Catholic schools including Oakland Catholic High School, Propel Braddock Hills High School and the Environmental Charter School at Frick Park, said Tsipy Gur, founder and director of CWB.
CWB chose Israel as a destination because the nation is a global leader in the world of science, technology, engineering and math, Gur said. The country also boasts the highest number of scientists, technicians and engineers per capita in the world, according to Gur.
Gur said that the trip provides a worthwhile opportunity for educators to experience multi-disciplinary approaches and innovative programs that work at solving serious national problems, such as water scarcity. Those new ways of thinking translate to teaching STEM subject matter in the classrooms, she added.
"When a teacher speaks from experience and radiates enthusiasm in a subject matter -- especially STEM subjects -- students become engaged and inspired in ways that text books are unable to duplicate," Gur said.
Classrooms Without Borders, which also sponsored a study seminar in Greece this summer, is a program of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.
For those local students whose teachers didn't travel the world for STEM experiences, a new fabrication lab at the Carnegie Science Center on the North Shore will open later this month. The Fab Foundation and Chevron, among other organizations, are opening the FAB Lab for students, teachers and the general Pittsburgh community to create, experiment and build their STEM skills.
Equipment at the FAB Lab will include 3-D printers, laser cutters, computers and software, electronics workbench equipment including robotics, sewing and embroidery machines, and projectors and documentation cameras. A mobile FAB Lab will travel to the region's schools during the upcoming school year.
FAB Lab Carnegie Science Center
is the third of 10 Fab Labs that Chevron is developing in partnership with The Fab Foundation. Chevron has invested more than $140 million in education in the United States since 2010, according to a press release.