Published: Sept. 27, 2022

Black box with a stuffed Elmo muppet and cut out stars.Students at Ma'ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls in New Jersey jumped on board their school's Build a Better Book initiative called "Making a Difference". In partnership with the School for Children with Hidden Intelligence (SCHI), Ma'ayanot students completed an in-depth STEAM and Maker course developing interactive educational toys and games for children at SCHI. Teachers Reyce Krause, Gillian Cofnas, and Gila Stein developed a robust curriculum that engaged students in 1) Learning through empathy and understanding visual impairments, 2) Product Design and Prototyping through testing, feedback, and iterations of their designs, and 3) Device Construction which challenged students to create products that were both aesthetic and robust enough to stand up to handling and use in the classroom.

After meeting with teachers and therapists at SCHI, students were given a profile of a SCHI child and went to work designing a customized product that reflected their child's interests and abilities. Since many of the SCHI children have cortical visual impairment (CVI), Ma'ayanot students used an array of Maker technologies to design devices with high color contrast, motion, sound, and lights to help focus attention and engage the viewer. After many months of hard work, re-designing, and STEAM skill-building, the students shared their projects at Ma'ayanot's STEAMposium and then presented the final products to the children at SCHI.

Guided by a "Focus on simplicity in concept and design, beauty in construction, maximum impact", the collaboration between Ma'ayanot and SCHI truly made a difference to everyone involved. 

Customized projects often incorporated a SCHI student's name and interests. View images of more projects.

Black box with felt and 3D printed animals of a monkey, dog, bird, snake, and elephant.    Black box with 3D printed letters for the name Chaya and colored buttons to push.  Black box with a curved strip of led lights, 3D printed car that drives past a train, police officer, and zoo animals.   Tactile book with large text poem about Fall and fabric maple leaves.