STEAM Splash 2019!

Our fourth annual STEAM Splash event took place this spring. STEAM Splash is a yearly design-fest that brings together the skills and interests of community members with the unbridled enthusiasm of our students. Parents and friends from our community, along with partners from Brown and RISD, ran 30 different STEAM-themed workshops over a three-day period. Students in Pre-K through fifth grade enjoyed a “splash” of fun, educational play, encouraging their love of science, technology, engineering, arts and math.

Collaboration, an important skill

Grades 3-5 have been practicing collaboration in TikkunXDesign while designing and building their own schools. In small groups, students brainstormed important elements of a school, created a floor plan, and built up walls and furniture to create a demonstrative model. At each point along the way, students were asked to build upon each other’s ideas, come to agreements about how to proceed, and delegate tasks to each other.

Thinking about how preschool children play

You could hear the giggles even before the children opened the door to the classroom and the smiles continued once inside. The Jewish Community Day School of RI second grade students warmly greeted their preschool buddies from the JCC/David C. Isenberg Family Early Childhood program with hugs and high-fives.  Once the welcomes were over, our students enthusiastically – yet gently – introduced their young guests to the bright and airy second grade classroom.

JCDSRI second graders had designed and created games about trees for their preschool buddies. This project was a part of their Tu B’Shvat (Jewish Arbor Day) challenge in TikkunXDesign, our school’s award-winning design program. At the beginning of the unit, our students explored and played games and attempted to articulate what made them fun.  They also brainstormed a list of additional games that they enjoyed playing. They realized, however, that their 3 and 4 year-old buddies would not like every game they did and that they needed to better understand their buddies’ interests and capabilities. This is an important Design Thinking mindset we practice during Design Lab — empathy.

In the following TikkunXDesign class, we brought in several games that were designed especially for preschoolers and our students compared these games with ones that were for 2nd graders. They chose a game that they were interested in adapting and worked in small groups over several weeks to redesign the game while incorporating information about trees. Finally, it was time to test the games by pretending to be 3 and 4-year-olds! At the end of that class, students had a chance to reflect and give feedback to each other about how the games worked and how they thought they might be improved.

When the preschool students came to visit, it was clear the games were a success! Our second graders were so excited to watch their buddies enjoy the games they had created. It was an afternoon filled with laughter, pride and learning.

Looking for TikkunXDesign Fellow and a Garden Fellow for 2018-19

We are currently seeking a TikkunXDesign Fellow and a Garden Fellow. Both part-time positions are under the supervision of our school’s TikkunXDesign Director, Tiferet Rose.  Please click on the job descriptions below for more information. Send Resume and cover letter to trose@jcdsri.com by July 1st.

TikkunXDesign Fellows job Descriptions 2018

A new loft in third grade

May 18th was a very exciting day for the JCDSRI third grade class (popularly known as Thirdopolis). The day included the culmination of a year-long TikkunXDesign project that focused on their “Grow Room,” a quiet alcove within the classroom. The Grow Room was initially conceived as a space where both children and plants would grow – children would “grow” their social/emotional skills surrounded by plants under a set of grow lights. Students would be responsible for caring for the plants and learned how to track their growth by taking scientific measurements. At the same time, the alcove would provide a calming space for conflict resolution and for students to take a break if they felt the need to “recharge.” The idea for the Grow Room was based on our school’s approach to social/emotional learning, as well as on studies that show that being surrounded by green growing things can contribute to a calm state of mind.

Much of the year in TikkunXDesign was spent applying the Design Process to improving the Grow Room. Our TikkunXDesign Director, Tiferet Rose, and third graders brainstormed, conducted interviews, built several different models — all the while making sure that their ideas reflected the purpose of the space. In the end, three different improvements were chosen: a loft addition, new bean bag chairs and a curtain to make the space more private.

Enter Brown University student Katya Scocimara who worked with Thirdopolis during our school’s STEAM Splash event. Katya had a wonderful experience teaching our students about Biomimicry and expressed interest in completing her final project for her engineering Design Studio at JCDSRI. Given Katya’s interests and background, Thirdopolis’ grow room emerged as the best fit for all involved.

After an initial idea-sharing session with third graders, Katya and her team were able to design, build and install a loft in only three short weeks. This month, Thirdopolis eagerly welcomed the loft and newly designed Grow Room into their classroom. Final touches will soon be added: a mural, pulley system and welcome sign. Third grade teacher, Joe Mirsky, led the Thirdopolans through a process to lay ground rules for the new space, to keep it safe, fair and fun, so students can continue to use it responsibly throughout their busy days.

This project is a wonderful example of the dynamic collaboration between classroom teachers, TikkunXDesign and our school’s Brown/RISD partners. Third grade students are very excited about the loft. While acknowledging how much help they received both from Katya and their teachers, they also have a clear sense of ownership over the entire process — and therefore the space itself.

STEAM Splash 2018

Two days of workshops focusing on STEAM delighted and engaged our students during April’s STEAM Splash days. Our partners at BROWN/RISD KinderSTEAM as well as parents and community friends led a variety of hands-on projects. Students explored many subjects including, mammals, bio-mimicry, aquaponics, vegetable printing, slime, science magic, extracting DNA from fruit and much more. STEAM Splash is part of our school’s broader TikkunXDesign program focusing on STEAM skills and mindsets such as innovation, collaboration, empathy, perseverance and problem solving in order to help improve our community and the world at large.


Madagascar hissing cockroaches help us learn empathy

Empathy is a very important mindset that we practice in our TikkunXDesign Lab. It helps us understand what problems or needs we are trying to remedy. In order to help us foster this important mindset, we welcomed some new classroom pets to our Design Lab: Madagascar hissing cockroaches.

We first spent time observing our new pets and learning about their preferences. Then we started our challenge – to build a piece of playground equipment for our new friends.

We spent part of our class time brainstorming and drawing out ideas either alone or in groups. Then, we spent the rest of our time using materials to create something that addressed the needs of our roaches. The limitations of the materials acted as constraints on our designs.

By trying to understand these very different creatures and trying to figure out their needs, we are increasing our capacity for empathy.

Introducing TikkunXDesign

What is TikkunXDesign? TikkunXDesign explores the interplay between Jewish values, the 21st Century skills of Design Thinking, and the subjects of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math). The concept of tikkun olam stems from the Jewish obligation that we engage in “repairing the world.” We know that despite the challenges before us, we have the resources, support, desire, and duty to work on making the world a better place.

Our goal is that the design projects we do through TikkunXDesign be purpose driven and reflect the values of our school. While tinkering is always fun, we don’t want to teach our students to simply create more “stuff” to be put in the world. That’s why we emphasize “process” at JCDSRI — particularly the skills of design thinking — which focus on building our capacities and capabilities to solve real-world problems.

This unique program, dubbed TikkunXDesign, plays a vital role in our students’ learning and will continue to shape our school’s culture as we welcome Tiferet Rose, who joined our faculty this year to direct and expand our TikkunXDesign program.

Tiferet says she is honored to be the new TikkunXDesign (Design Lab) teacher, to be working with an amazing staff, as well as to be learning with – and from – such wonderful, curious children! Tiferet has a MS in Science Education and an MPS in Environmental Interpretation, has experience in both formal and informal education, is excited to expand her knowledge base and experience into teaching Design Thinking.


Emphasizing process over product: This fall, TikkunXDesign classes will focus on developing the five healthy mindsets of Design Thinking: Optimistic, Collaborative, Empathetic, Visceral, and Experimental. Each grade – PreK through 5th – will work on one major project throughout the year, delving deeply into our challenge, learning as much as we can about it, and then generating ideas, experimenting and prototyping possible solutions.

So far we are off to a wonderful start!