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Lander-Grinspoon Academy initiative will expand 21st-century education

By Stacey Dresner

NORTHAMPTON – Each member of the Lander-Grinspoon Academy (LGA) faculty received a new iPad Pro late last month and the day school purchased 40 new iPads for their students and a wireless projector for every classroom, thanks to a $100,000 legacy gift aimed at embarking on a unique computing, science and engineering (CSE) initiative in the context of Jewish education.

The iPads and projectors are just one facet of the launch and implementation of the multi-year initiative aimed at expanding and supporting 21st-century education at LGA.

The initiative will focus on the development of new mindsets and skillsets for students in the areas of computing, physical science and engineering and will also develop and support teacher capacity to deliver new CSE-related subjects and activities such as computer coding, engineering design and more.

Initial funding for the LGA CSE initiative is being provided through a legacy gift from LGA grandparent Rose-Jane Sulman in honor of her husband David Lear Sulman, z”l.

For several years, LGA has been working to offer its students technological literacy.

“We have been a Google school for a number of years,” said Bromberg Seltzer. “Our kids have been using email for number of years and various technological pieces. A year ago we started being one-to-one with Chrome Books for third grade and up.

“We have been using that for kindergarten, first and second grade. We’ve been using BE–BOT which is an even simpler littler robot. And also teachers have been doing various things in the classroom. Our upper grades have been starting to use Google Classroom – a program that allows teachers to set up a virtual classroom and to assign work for kids to do that each student can then log in and do on their own.”

“Every classroom has a computer of some sort and for the past two years we have done an Hour of Code, which is an international program encouraging kids to learn how to code,” added Ellen Frank, executive director of LGA. “And we were doing that in every classroom so it would look a little different for kindergarten than for 6th grade, but every class in its own way was doing that Hour of Code. Some of the classrooms, depending on the interest of both the kids and the teachers were taking it far beyond that hour. So there was definitely interest.”

A couple of years ago philanthropist and Jewish education supporter Diane Troderman purchased six KIBOs for Jewish educational institutions in the Pioneer Valley, including LGA, which shares theirs with Congregation B’nai Israel. KIBO is an early childhood robotics kit for children ages 4-7 which allows young children to code and build their own robots.

“We, and particularly Deborah, have had this vision for a long time, of how we could implement technology, engineering, math, science, art – and what else could we implement,” Frank said. “There is a whole new world out there that we wanted our children to be able to access. We never had the funding to make it happen so we kept coming up against that. And that is where this gift has been so transformational for us, because it has allowed up to do on a very grand scale everything that we had always wanted to do.”

Rose-Jane Sulman made the gift to the school to honor the legacy of her late husband, David, who was an electrical engineer who studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for many years including doctoral course work after earning an MS degree in electrical engineering in 1969. He spent his entire career at Teradyne Inc., a leading supplier of automation equipment used to test data storage, semiconductors, wireless products and complex electronic systems for consumer, industrial, and government applications.

“She has had three grandchildren come through LGA,” Frank said. “There are two still here and she had always loved LGA from the day she came to tour it with her daughter to look at it for her grandchildren.”

Frank said that Sulman was one of the major drivers behind the implementation of the Chrome Books that LGA rolled out last year.

“She is a strong believer in Jewish day school education and also a strong believer in technology as a tool in the classroom,” Frank said. “Her husband David passed away this past year and she was left on the position to really do something impactful and spent a great deal of time thinking and reading to determine how it is that she wanted to implement her own vision and what she feels is important in Jewish day school education, and also her husband’s background, which was in engineering.”

Sulman has also made similar gifts to two other Jewish day schools where she once taught — Maimonides in Brookline and Epstein Hillel school in Marblehead.

“The initial rollout will be over three years and she is hoping other funders see the value in this, get excited about it and join in,” Frank said.

The first phase is an improvement to the school’s technology infrastructure so the school will have the capacity for every faculty member in the building to have one of the 40 new iPad Pros as well as the new wireless projectors in every classroom.

“The most important part is the professional development for our faculty in terms of use and in terms of implementation in the classroom,” Frank said.

Michael Mino, a technology specialist, will be working with LGA over the next year, and three teachers have been named to a committee who will be able to help the other faculty members in learning the skills they will need to use the new technology in the classroom.

Over the next two years, LGA will continue to build on the technology initiative, as educators and students determine even more ways to apply the various technologies.

“Through this initiative we hope to better prepare our students to meet the challenges and opportunities of the future so that they too can become contributing members of our 21st-century technological society,” Bromberg Seltzer said.

CAP: On Aug. 31, every member of LGA’s faculty received a new IPad Pro as part of the day school’s initiative aimed at expanding and supporting 21st Century Education.

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