Opening of new STEM laboratories gives Sofia pupils room for inspiration


Is that a classroom or the deck of a ship? A science lab or the flight deck of a UFO?

The opening of two new physics and biology laboratories at the Lauder-ORT No 134 Dimcho Debelianov Jewish School in Sofia, Bulgaria, marked a sea change in how students and their teachers view their learning spaces.

Created using a concept combining innovative layouts with interior design solutions and state-of-the-art technology, the classrooms aim to provide a new learning experience at the 1,000-plus pupil school.

Equipped with virtual reality and augmented reality technology, the project will offer students opportunities to “dissect” frogs with 3D virtual technology, rather than the scalpels and tools of the past.

The first laboratory is constructed to represent an unidentified flying object – with the teacher’s podium at the front of the room designed as a flying saucer, and the students’ desks as smaller versions.

The layout aims to show the teacher as a leader, commanding the attention and support of his or her students.

The UFO-themed laboratory at the Lauder-ORT No 134 Dimcho Debelianov Jewish School in Sofia, Bulgaria

In the next room, the teacher’s podium represents a ship’s deck, with students seated at desks designed like small boats. The room can be reimagined depending on the needs of the lesson – the desks can represent Noah’s Ark, Charles Darwin’s adventures aboard HMS Beagle, or Christopher Columbus’ Santa Maria.

The ship-themed laboratory at the Lauder-ORT No 134 Dimcho Debelianov Jewish School in Sofia, Bulgaria

Multi-functional, the rooms will be used as classrooms, conference rooms or laboratories for a range of subjects, lesson types and events.

Understandably, teachers from grades three to 12 are lining up to use the new labs with their pupils.

Attending the opening of the rooms on November 22 were Emil Kalo, Chairman of ORT Bulgaria, and Plamen Petrov, ORT Bulgaria national director and the school principal, who had overseen the project.

Plamen Petrov, ORT Bulgaria national director and the school principal (left) and Emil Kalo, Chairman of ORT Bulgaria

Other attendees included Bulgaria’s Deputy Minister of Education and local school headteachers. National television stations were on hand to film the opening.

The labs were also visited by Robert Singer, CEO of the World Jewish Congress, and Alexander Oscar, President of the Sofia Jewish Community, who paid tribute to ORT for its long-standing support of the school.

Vladimir Dribinskiy, World ORT’s Chief Program Officer, travelled to Sofia for the event and said: “The opening of these two labs almost concludes our project to support top-level STEM education in the school.

“We opened a chemistry lab a couple of years ago, and a robotic/Lego lab last year, and now the physics and biology labs. This allows the school to focus on advanced teaching practices and STEM curricular.”

Students will use 3D virtual technology to learn about anatomies

The biology laboratory was dedicated in honour of the Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester, and the physics laboratory was dedicated in honour of the Charles and Alice Kurland Family in appreciation of their generosity. The Bulgarian state also contributed to the cost of the rooms.

The new facilities and laboratories will provide a STEM enrichment program that will assist students, will help them to understand scientific and technological principles and theories, and will enable students to develop high order cognitive and problem-solving skills such as critical thinking and technological skills through the hands-on and interactive use of the most advanced educational equipment and pedagogical methods available.

WATCH: Bulgarian television reports on the opening of the laboratories (film via