WHEN THE KEY TO THE LAB OPENS A WHOLE NEW WORLD

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Long after school is out at Boys Town Jerusalem, and often late into the night, the lights remain on for one student hard at work in the Cisco Computer Networking laboratory.

“I learn by myself. I need my freedom,” says 11th grader Benjamin Heiman, who lives and studies in the school. Fortunately, his teacher Shlomo Serok instinctively realized this. “I tossed him the keys to the classroom laboratory and told him to come as he pleases.”

One month later, the results have been astounding, even to Shlomo Serok. Fascinated by the laboratory’s new, sophisticated “smart” 3-D printer, Benjamin diligently taught himself the advanced Tinkercad 3D computer program. From there, he entered the world of designing and building new creations, the first of which was inspired by a diagram for “printing” a model skull.

“To me, its shape looked ideal for the basis of a computer mouse,” Benjamin reports. “I designed a skull with a depression inside for the mouse, and built and aligned two small skulls to sit atop for the two mouse buttons.” The complex creation – and the range of others that followed – works flawlessly.

Benjamin’s loathe for routine classroom learning makes him ideal for the extracurricular two-year “Project-Based Learning” (PBL) course pioneered and piloted in Israel by Boys Town Jerusalem.

“On their own, students research, examine and create solutions for real-world problems,” Serok notes. “We guide them, but the students’ independent learning process is what powers this extraordinary program.” Serok notes that thanks to private donors, BTJ’s 3D printers are placing cutting-edge technology at the students’ fingertips.

It’s amazing to be in a school where we’re given the trust and the facilities to discover and learn,” says Benjamin, who hopes to become an architect. “There’s no limit to how far we can reach.”

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