What’s Jewish about Science?
I chanced upon a group of environmental engineers in fourth grade this week. They were working in pairs, designing compost bins and discussing the efficacy of various materials, design shape and access points to turning the compost.
On my way downstairs, I peaked out the window of the south staircase to see 3rd graders bordering the prairie with paving stones to prevent erosion, and marveling at the site of deer prints near their prairie.
In kindergarten, students were learning about oviparous animals. (It’s pretty adorable to hear young children use such sophisticated scientific words.) Soon their pond will be filled with eggs, and they will observe as the tadpoles that emerge grow legs and lose their tails.
This is nothing like the science lessons of my own childhood. When I was in school, we read text books about scientists and their discoveries. At Mirowitz, our students ARE the scientists. They engage their higher order cognition to solve problems, and they marvel at each scientific discovery that enables them to better understand the world around them. We don’t just read about butterflies. We build butterfly gardens that attract monarchs on their migratory path. We don’t just learn about macro-invertebrates. We test the quality of streams and understand that the number of macro-invertebrates is a sign of the health of the water source.
Our students graduate with an extensive science content knowledge, with skills required for scientific exploration, and with the habits of mind necessary to succeed in a rigorous high school science program. But they also graduate understanding their Jewish obligation to sustain the the earth and all living creatures. They know about the role of the Jewish state in introducing inventions — like wind-powered cars and endoscopy capsules — that have made the world a better place. They know that scientific discovery leads to knowledge that is useful in the repair of the world.