Sadaj Japhet School students Gabe Shaffer, 12, of Royal Oak, and Sloan Hale, 11, of Bloomfield Hills, make use of the new STEM lab at the private school in Clawson.

Sadaj Japhet School students Gabe Shaffer, 12, of Royal Oak, and Sloan Hale, 11, of Bloomfield Hills, make use of the new STEM lab at the private school in Clawson.

Photo provided by Janine Krasicky


Japhet School in Clawson completes STEM lab

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published October 8, 2021

 Thanks to a $10,000 grant, Japhet School installed a new STEM lab and purchased materials for its science curriculum that include new digital microscopes, frogs for dissection and brain molds.

Thanks to a $10,000 grant, Japhet School installed a new STEM lab and purchased materials for its science curriculum that include new digital microscopes, frogs for dissection and brain molds.

Photo provided by Janine Krasicky Sadaj

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CLAWSON — Students at the Japhet School in Clawson returned to class this fall to a brand-new STEM lab for the middle schoolers — the fifth through eighth grades — and classroom reconfigurations that impacted nearly the entire school.

The private school, which has an enrollment of approximately 50 students in preschool through eighth grades, installed the science, technology, engineering and math lab this summer thanks to a $10,000 grant.

Head of School Kerri Vizena said the new lab combines both classes of middle schoolers and allows for students to gather in a large group or break into smaller groups easily with the addition of rolling desks.

New digital microscopes are part of the purchase, as well as other materials for the earth, life and physical science curriculums, including frogs for dissection and fossil-building materials.

Overall, the reconfiguration of classrooms to create the STEM lab lends to a sense of “rhythm,” Vizena said.

“Moving into new classrooms provides a fresh new perspective for learning and teaching,” she said. “There’s a hum in the building of just moving nicely from one activity or one experience to the other, and I’m really grateful for the receptivity of the faculty and staff. It wasn’t easy, but the results have been phenomenal.”

Besides indoor learning, she added that teachers have been bringing students beyond the physical walls of the building to get outside and enjoy the fresh air. While outside, masks are optional, as opposed to being mandatory indoors per Oakland County’s emergency health order.

“Anything is possible when you design a classroom that meets the needs of the students,” Vizena said. “I’m impressed by their focus. There are so many groups learning, but they are not concerned about what’s over there — they are focused on what’s right in front of them.”

Liz Grunow, the fifth and sixth grade homeroom teacher who teaches science to all middle school grades, said the expanded space is ideal for growing middle schoolers, their increased need for freedom, and for projects that used to spill out into the school’s hallways.

“When we were able to have an open house and have the students come in and take a look around and see all the changes we had made and purchases we made, it was exciting to be involved in that process but even more exciting to see them all see it for the first time,” Grunow said. “It really got us energized for the school year.”

She added that the STEM lab allows for other classes to participate in lessons that may be messy or space-consuming.

Gabe Shaffer, 12, of Royal Oak, and his twin brother, Jacob, were among the students who got to see the STEM lab before the beginning of school. A sixth grader this year, Gabe said he is enjoying the new space and looks forward to more hands-on science lessons made possible through the grant.

He and Jacob also helped take care of the classroom’s crabs, and Grunow said she plans to slowly build up the number of animals in the lab.

Besides the extra space, the lab also includes a library where students can pick out books, hang out and read.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Gabe said.

Japhet School is located at 839 S. Crooks Road, north of Normandy Road.

For more information about Japhet School, visit japhetschool.org or call (248) 585-9150.

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