Our students came to school on a recent Wednesday morning and were met with a strange sight. Jutting into the lobby from the Student Services hallway, were five colored cones, a glass bottle, several marbles, and a yellow plastic hedgehog in what looked like a lunchbox. The sign on one of the cones read, “What do you think this is?“ If the student looked a little further to the left, they saw tables with tubing and pipes, boxes and a scale, toy cars and marbles, and a host of other random objects.

Curiosity then took over.

What is this strange creation? It’s a Rube Goldberg machine. Named after Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Rube Goldberg, these machines do a very simple task in a very complex manner through a series of chain reactions. Our Rube Goldberg machine is a very large, complicated mousetrap. (Ok, technically it is a hedgehog trap. Aren’t you relieved that we couldn’t find a mouse to trap?)

Since this strange assembly appeared in the building, students have been adjusting it, adding to it, modifying sections, and trying to make it work. They have asked teachers about it and proposed their own theories as to why something new is in the hallway and what to do with it. Some of them have even climbed up onto the tables to tinker.

Initially assembled as part of a faculty meeting, our Rube Goldberg machine is taking on a life of its own. It has become a magnet for students; often capturing their attention long after they should have wandered off. Students are exploring how the device works and proposing their own “hacks” to figure out how to get that ball to roll down and close the mousetrap better.

We are embracing learning from failure as these improvements work or don’t. Collaboration is a must as they explore new solutions. Our machine is so long and complex that no one person can do it all.

Gross Schechter Day School is a place where we want to engage our students’ creativity and curiosity even when they are walking in the hall. Don’t just take my word for it, watch our students as they first get to know our mouse trap and watch the video a student made for a friend’s Bar Mitzvah.

Shabbat Shalom,
Dr. Ari Yares

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