Misha Jakobas, ORT School Principal
Last year, the Lithuanian government named our school as the most innovative school in Lithuania. The Vilnius Sholom Aleichem ORT school was officially recognized as an institution making a valuable contribution to the country’s education system.
It’s been almost a ten-year journey to reach this point of recognition.
Almost 30 years ago, ORT set out to make the Jewish schools of the Former Soviet Union the best choice for Jewish families through teacher training, particularly in science and technology. Our teachers have been participating in seminars and courses on the development of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education organized by ORT, which proved to be very effective.
The seminars acquaint teachers with different types of education equipment, such as digital laboratories, electronics sets and more. Participants also share best practice and pedagogical approaches to improve the approach to STEM education in their own schools.
The Lithuanian Jewish community pays great attention to the education of children, particularly in the sciences, and we soon realized that our task was to introduce new educational technologies to our school and involve as many students as possible.
In 2017, an international STEM project was launched for ORT network schools in the countries of the Former Soviet Union.
A series of webinars, instructional materials and conferences were developed within the ORT network and we began a four-year project to completely update the teacher training, technology and curriculum here in Vilnius. It’s a STEAM program, including ‘A’ for arts subjects.
Teachers from Vilnius attend regular webinars, conferences and seminars conducted by lecturers from ORT schools and leading world companies.
More than 30 webinars have been conducted during the last two years. Sessions include instruction and guidance in teaching STEM topics and using new equipment, as well as innovative approaches to pedagogy in connection with STEM.
Examples of topics covered in teacher training include:
- guidance on using digital STEM laboratories
- innovative techniques in the organization of a lesson
- introducing case-based technology to the natural sciences
- methodical features of using the Arduino platform in the educational process
- new educational robotics.
Computers, laptops, projectors, smart boards, printers, a 3D printer, equipment for Physics, Computer science and Chemistry labs and new software have been gradually introduced to the school.
Teresa Segaliene, technology teacher says
‘Using 3D modeling for example, I see how much easier it is to teach surface areas and volumes of geometric figures, symmetry, and rotation. Students also understand this, they are well aware that there was a time when only black and white textbooks existed.’
LEGO sets such as WeDo 2.0 and Simple Machines as well as Arduino sets for microelectronics lessons are popular and BBC Micro:bit starter sets and microcomputers are actively used for workshops, hackathons, educational and extracurricular activities.
Much attention is now paid to the quality of education at each stage of the educational process. This means not only making use of technical training and new technologies but integrating them effectively with pedagogy and teaching.
Because of the new equipment and training, all STEAM subjects are being taught at a more advanced level with the integration of new technologies. Studies in 3D Modelling, LEGO and Programming are a regular feature of education in Vilnius now.
The administration of the school and the teachers of Math, Physics, Chemistry, Biology and IT began to understand that new technologies and the STEAM program developed a new quality of teaching, a new approach to knowledge and the improved ability of students to research and work with new information in their studies.
The success of STEAM in Vilnius
Students have performed well in STEM subjects, even gaining recognition at regional and national competitions in Math (2nd place) and Chemistry (2nd place). Last year, our school was awarded the Junior Achievement Diploma for training entrepreneurship of students.
Our students and teachers are proud
Our students are proud of their school, they are known throughout the city because they differ from students of the other schools in Vilnius. Ours is the only school in the city with technology studies.
Recently, I learned that our former student, Martyna Urbonaite, went on to continue her studies in Chemistry in the UK and has just defended her doctoral thesis in Organic/Fluorine Chemistry.
A high percentage of our graduates gain admission to universities in Lithuania and abroad. Achievements like this are something we‘re very proud of in our school and something that we attribute to the STEAM project.
Today a network of 16 ORT schools operates across the countries of the Former Soviet Union, where ORT believes it is essential to focus on supporting the rejuvenation of the Jewish community.
World ORT strives to support the Jewish communities of the FSU by ensuring that young people can access Jewish life through excellent Jewish schools, which must offer the best available general education.
In 2017 World ORT launched a campaign to ensure the continued competitive advantage of the 16 FSU ORT network schools, particularly in the provision of the highest quality STEM education. The ORT STEM program to date has succeeded in supporting the development of schoolteachers’ pedagogical and conceptual knowledge of STEM subjects and 21st century learning skills, as well as providing a general upgrade of equipment and software of the schools in the program.