Darchei Noam students build playground for Jewels special needs school

Miriam Schwartz, her father, Jennifer Naiman and two Darchei Noam students
Miriam Schwartz (front row, second to left) with the team that helped assemble the playground for Jewels school (Courtesy)

By Meghan Thompson

When Jewels School approached Miriam Schwartz for a price to construct a playground at their new building location, Miriam decided to complete the project free of charge.

Miriam, a 13-year-old student at Darchei Noam Montessori, has her own furniture construction company, iBuild by Miriam. She spent the summer building furniture in lieu of attending Camp Shoresh, which was canceled due to COVID-19.

With the assistance of her father and two classmates from Darchei Noam, Miriam assembled a playground at Jewels, a Jewish school in Pikesville for children with special needs. On Oct. 19, the group worked on putting the playground together until the sun went down.

“It’s really great that they have Jewels in our community because people with disabilities need that kind of education,” Miriam said. She offered to complete the project for free because “it’s something that will help the community out.”

Miriam said inviting her friends from Darchei Noam meant the project would be “schools helping schools” and a great opportunity to share the mitzvah.

“There were some parts that were more difficult than others, but eventually we figured it all out and we got it done,” Miriam said.

Brocha Baum-Margolese, the head of school at Darchei Noam, said the playground construction project aligns with the school’s Montessori learning method. Students Miriam’s age are encouraged to learn who they are in the world by contributing to their community outside of their family and school.

“Our students were so excited to participate and not only be able to do something for another school, but get physically involved and put together something that will hopefully serve another school for years and years to come,” Baum-Margolese said. “It’s a super exciting opportunity from our perspective and very in line with what we do.”

Miriam Schwartz
Miriam Schwartz (Jennifer Naiman)

Miriam started iBuild by Miriam after helping put cubicles together when her school moved to a new building. Over the summer, she grew the business, working up to six days a week assembling furniture.

Darchei Noam returned to school in-person for the 2020-21 school year, despite the unique challenges COVID-19 poses on the Montessori teaching method, which focuses on hands-on learning and collaboration.

Baum-Margolese said students are happy to be back in the classroom and Miriam agrees, though she is still getting used to having to wear a mask all the time. Virtual learning “just really isn’t Montessori,” Miriam said.

With the start of the school year, Miriam said she has less time for her business and has begun having to turn away customers since her Sundays are booked with projects for the foreseeable future.

Because of this, Miriam hired her first employee: her dad.

“We can help people and expand my business,” she explained.

Miriam said she is learning about financial responsibility, demonstrated by the fact that she is using her profits to invest in her future, saving for a car down payment and even purchasing some stocks. She also donates 10% of each month’s earnings to different charity organizations in the community.

Jennifer Naiman, a school counselor at both the Jewels and Darchei Noam, said she could not be more impressed with the way Miriam and her classmates give to others.

“It was heartwarming to see my Jewels students smile from ear to ear at the sight of their new playground, and it was even more heartwarming to see my Darchei Noam students interact with them with joy and excitement as they were building it.” Naiman said, “Anyone who has been a student of mine over the years knows that I deeply value the power of bringing simcha to others, and when we bring simcha to others, we also bring simcha to ourselves.”

Meghan Thompson is a freelance writer.

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