Student reflection 2022 | Student Centered Religious Learning and Literacy Lab (SCRoLL Lab)
Student reflection 2022
A day in the SCRoLL lab
By Wintana Sium ’23
“Different ideas, views and knowledge are welcome in the laboratory.”
It’s 12:40 p.m., five minutes before our weekly lab meeting starts. I make my way into the protected complex of red and white buildings located behind the university. Bold metal letters protrude from a red banner Academic complex named after Abraham Shapira. As I enter, passing through the double doors, muffled voices begin to be heard. “Let’s think about it a little more…” a voice might interject, “The child looks very confident…”, “They seem to understand that Shoresh does…”, and “What can we know next?”. A large square table stands in the center of a laboratory room occupied by focused and energetic research students. Above the surface of the table hang stacks of papers with intense comments, marked with red or purple paint. One student might stand at the front of the room explaining a new painting they noticed, another student respectfully disagrees, and a third quickly types up meeting notes. Conversations, ideas and thoughts are constantly circulating in the room for the next hour. This is SCRoLL Lab and it’s own experience.
At the SCRoLL Lab, our research examines how written text is read, interpreted, and understood by young students. We observe how children comprehend ancient texts in an ancient language to reveal the mechanisms of literacy. In doing so, we slowly come closer to answering such grand questions as what does it take to read and interpret texts? What resource sets do students use to make sense of texts.
Our research focuses primarily on young readers from Jewish day schools. Using qualitative research methods, including task-based interviews and close observation, we uncover deeper and perhaps internal patterns of textual interpretation.
You don’t have to be Jewish or incredibly knowledgeable about biblical Hebrew to expand your research and contribute. I hardly know about them. However, this has never stopped me and other non-Jewish members from appreciating and immersing myself in the lab discussions. I can still perceive, challenge, and constantly explore conclusions that we may already presume to know. Different ideas, views and knowledge are welcome in the laboratory. Different ideas are openly encouraged and Professor Hassenfeld makes it clear that this enhances the richness of our research. In the laboratory there is always a new door, a new question.
For me, SCRoLL Lab deepened my appreciation of our cognitive functions, socio-cultural influences, and overall development. The children we observe always spark our curiosity during our lab meetings. Through the research we do, we look beyond children’s potential background knowledge of poetry and discover how the structure of schools, communities, and other cultural artifacts shape and regulate their understanding of what they read. There’s never a day when the SCRoLL lab doesn’t have something to analyse, dissect and discuss.
Wintana Sium is a senior double majoring in psychology and African-American studies with a minor in journalism. She worked as a history assistant under Professor Abigail Cooper on her forthcoming book, Punched Pennies and Placental Fire, analyzing how black communities used folk knowledge to create and liberate their identities. Wintona is an aspiring researcher who strives to work in archives to preserve the narratives of different cultures, ethnicities and communities and strives to contribute to a holistic and honest understanding of history. In addition, Wintana develops curricula for the Diocese of the Eritrean Orthodox Church of Tewahdo in the United States and Canada. She has created lessons on the history of the Eritrean Orthodox Church and topics related to iconography, liturgical history, dogmatics, creeds and religious doctrines. Vintana is excited to be a part of the SCRoLL lab, expanding her knowledge of the rich Hebrew Bible and its linguistic elements.