Passover is a story of cause and effect. Pharaoh refused to let the Jewish people go, in turn causing God to smite the Egyptians with plagues. What better way to depict the Passover story than a Rube Goldberg machine? A Rube Goldberg Machine is a device that involves a chain reaction to complete a simple task in a complicated way. Sixth graders at Cohen Hillel Academy jumped at the chance to partake in the Technion’s International Jewish Day School Passover Challenge for students in grades 6-12. The team of ambitious students met twice a week to construct a Rube Goldberg Machine that would show the Passover story in a series of steps leading to the revelation of a Seder plate.
In order to create the Rube Goldberg masterpiece, students followed the engineering design process. A comprehensive handbook was followed to help guide their work, following the rules and expectations of the challenge. Students jotted down and sketched initial ideas for what their Rube Goldberg Machine would look like as well as the materials they would need to acquire, such as dominos, balls, and ramps. Students learned the true scientific meaning of trial and error. As students were building, they modified their plans and adjusted their expectations after each iteration. In total, the students built 14 steps to show 10 parts of the Passover story including baby Moses in the basket up to Moses leading the Israelites through the sea. The splitting of the blue domino sea added flare at the end as the Seder plate was revealed. A sixth grader commented, “I really liked that we were able to accomplish something so complex when we worked together. I was really happy when it worked.”
This creative project exemplifies the experiential and integrated curriculum that happens organically and seamlessly at Cohen Hillel Academy.
Lea Winkler is a Cohen Hillel Academy third grade teacher and STEM coordinator.