Mikvah: A J-STEM Project
As schools are involved in the area of STEM, we at the Ottawa Jewish Community School are introducing J-STEM, involving the integration of Halakhah with science, technology, engineering and math through the construction of a model functional mikvah built to scale.
The building of a mikvah is a complex halakhic project as it involves not only the knowledge of the Jewish laws applicable to it, but also the implementation of key components involved in the study of STEM. From an engineering perspective, it has to be determined how the building and the water gathering system from both rainwater and city water should be constructed so as to ensure functionality. Students will study about water systems in general science, and work out how the cisterns gathering water shall be built in order to ensure that no leakage takes place.
Mathematics is used to determine the volume of the cisterns and the immersion pool as well as issues of water displacement. From a scientific basis, it will have to be determined how the water will be heated, and how the water will remain clean either through filtering and/or the use of chlorine. Another scientific challenge concerns the question of how the PH of the water will be tested.
Can the students create a technologically friendly way of ensuring that the process of filling the cisterns and immersion pool is functional and in accordance with Jewish law?
Most importantly, the students will study the halakhot of the mikvah and taharat hamishpachah (family purity) as they build this.
As this is an eighth grade project, students are assigned to teams and a project manager is selected.
The teams include the following committees: halakhic research, engineering, planning, aesthetics, material, technological. At the end of the project, students will create a video or slideshow depicting the mikvah.
In a community school setting, it is imperative that experiential Jewish education forms an important component of the students’ Judaic instruction, and that clearly, there is integration between Judaic and secular studies. The building of a mikvah is such an example.