Inspiring Future Innovators

by | May 23, 2024 | Lower School, Learning

Grade 2 has been spending their school year looking at changemakers—individuals who work to solve a problem for the betterment of others. They have studied pioneers such as Mae Jemison, the first African American woman in space, and iconic innovators such as Milton Hershey, founder of the Hershey Chocolate Company and the M.S. Hershey Foundation. With two weeks left in the 2023-24 school year, students visited a landmark of changemaking right in their own backyard: the Charles River Museum of Industry & Innovation.


The Charles River Museum is located within the Francis Cabot Lowell Mill, where the Boston Manufacturing Company made textiles in the 19th century. The class toured the property, seeing how water ran through the building for power, and how the architecture was optimized for working without electricity. Inside the museum was a plethora of machinery from the American Industrial Revolution, from a gear maker to a paper bag folder to a metal shaver. Students watched as museum staff powered up the equipment, demonstrating exactly how each rig worked. They followed an impressive setup of pulleys and belts, each over 100 years old, that propelled the industrial boom of Massachusetts into the modern age. 

As they observed the building and surrounding campus, the children were tasked with identifying something they thought could be improved. This could be pollution in the Charles River, a feature of the building itself, or the visitor experience. Led by Vice-Chair of Trustees Rudy Ruggles, they then went through the design process—defining a problem, brainstorming solutions, building a prototype, and improving their final product—with everyday materials to create their own innovations. One student designed a water pollutant vacuum, while two others teamed up to prototype a high-security door for the museum. They learned that children as young as them had invented products that we still use today, and that anyone, from anywhere, can be an innovator and changemaker. 

Now, as they begin their final projects of the year, second graders will be applying this experience in their Jewish studies class to design houses optimized for the Israeli desert. Their goal will be to create an insulation system that will hold heat in at night, and cool air during the day. To test this, students will be placing ice cubes in their prototype houses under the sun, and seeing how much they melt after a few hours. To test heat retention, they will be placing water in the house and putting it in the freezer to see how much it freezes after a few hours. The less the ice cube melts, and the less the water freezes, the better the insulation. Every part of the Rashi curriculum is cumulative, with lessons being applied year-round and across subjects, to provide an immersive, inspiring, and life-changing learning experience.