When the Chicago-Kiryat Gat-Lachish-Shafir Partnership was looking to maximize impact with a flagship project years ago, it didn't take much effort to identify education as the one area in which the gaps were the most apparent and where our community could have the greatest influence. JUF's first flagship project, Israel Children's Zone (ICZ), provided a comprehensive intervention in state and state-religious elementary schools in the region, encompassing 6,500 students aged 6 to 12 as well as hundreds of teachers. The projest provided the schools with a full mapping of every child's need and supplied a basket of therapies and interventions, giving solutions to almost 100% of kids' needs - emotional, social and academic. Independent assessment proved that for many, we "moved the needle."
As planned, the program ran for five years and left behind the building blocks that would allow schools to continue running it, albeit using other funding sources. It was then time for to build a new flagship project and after discussions with the mayors in the region and their staff, and after researching many different needs, the conclusion was that the next flagship project would again support the educational system, but this time focusing more closely on STEM education: Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and English. Thus was born Sulamot - JUF's STEM flagship project.
Sulamot ("ladders" in Hebrew) is a unique project designed to effect change in the region's educational system. The project comprises of three components:
- Teacher training and in person mentoring
- After school STEM programs for excelling students
- Innovative learning environments in schools
After much research and generous support from a community leader active in the Partnership, JUF's P2G funded in conjunction with Intel Corporation and others a year-long mapping process to identify the gaps and needs in our region's STEM education. Then two organizations specializing in STEM education identified and brought together to form a unique, unified and indeed unprecedented partnership to design and implement a program in JUF region.
The Davidson Institute (the Weizmann Institute's educational arm) and Beit Yatziv, a teacher training center located in Beer Sheba, were chosen to train JUF's P2G region's teachers in the most cutting-edge methods of imparting STEM learning to 21
The project was launched in September 2019 in 17 schools and scaled up to 24 schools in the 2021-2022 academic year, with each school receiving one or more components of Sulamot. It creates a STEM ecosystem and "language" encompassing teachers, students, learning spaces and a connection with the community at large.
The Partnership steering committee, composed of half lay leadership from Chicago and half from the Partnership region, approved the budget for the project. Other partners include local authorities, corporations and private donors.
JUF's STEM flagship project runs in full conjunction with the Ministry of Education and the heads of education in the three regional councils. They take ownership over the project's content, determining its scope and breadth and making sure that all schools are able to maximize its potential.
By addressing the gaps in STEM education among third to sixth graders, the project has a robust, long-term goal: to grow the number of students electing to study (5 point) high-level math, physics and science for their high school matriculation exams. There is a direct correlation between 5-point matriculation in these subjects and eligibility for service in the IDF's elite technological units such as 8200. Once trained in those units, graduates of the STEM initiative will have gained years of hands-on experience and access to countless possibilities for academic advancement and, ultimately, gainful employment in Israel's hi-tech industry, which currently has a shortage of close to ten thousand qualified engineers and will likely need many more as the tech sector continues to grow. With Intel, HP and other tech companies employing thousands in Kiryat Gat, employment opportunities for alumni of our program are almost endless.
For the Chicago community, the STEM flagship project is a great fit. It continues JUF's quarter century involvement in the Partnership region in a strategic and meaningful way, providing solutions to a real need articulated by the residents of the region.
This project allows hundreds of children in Kiryat Gat, Lachish and Shafir to fulfill their potential and maximize resources otherwise unavailable to them. They deserve a chance to excel. JUF's P2G provide them with the tools to do that and a more promising horizon.
To learn more about Sulamot watch
this short video
Through the Partnership, JUF has been supporting Sulamot in Kiryat Gat, Lachish Regional Council and Shafir Regional Council since 2019.