Student Reflection 2022

A Day in the SCRoLL Lab

By Wintana Sium '23

“Varying insights, perspectives, and knowledge are all welcomed within the lab."

It’s 12:40pm, five minutes before our weekly lab meeting starts. I make my way into a sheltered red and white building complex situated at the back of the University. Bold metallic letters protrude from a red banner Abraham Shapiro Academic Complex. As I walk in, passing through double doors, muffled voices begin to be heard: “Let’s think about this a little more…” Other voices may interject, “The child appears very confident…,” “They seem to understand what the shoresh is doing…,” or “What can we know further?.” A large, square table rests in the center of the lab room occupied with focused and energetic student researchers. Piles of intensively annotated papers marked with red or purple ink drape over the table’s surface. One student may be standing in the front of the room explaining a new pattern they observed, another student respectfully disagreeing, and another rapidly typing notes of the meeting. Conversations, ideas, and thoughts constantly circulate within the room for the next hour. This is SCRoLL Lab and it is an experience of its own.

At SCRoLL Lab, our research investigates how written text is read, interpreted, and understood by young students. We observe how children comprehend ancient texts in an ancient language to uncover the mechanisms of literacy. In so doing, we slowly approach answers to such grand questions as, what does it take to read and interpret texts? What sets of resources do students use to make sense of texts. 

Our studies focus primarily on young readers from Jewish day schools. Using qualitative research methods including task-based interviews and careful observations, we unveil deeper and possibly intrinsic patterns of textual interpretation.

You don’t have to be Jewish or incredibly versed in Biblical Hebrew to broaden the research and contribute. I barely have any knowledge of the two. Yet it has never stopped me and other non-Jewish members from appreciating and immersing ourselves in the lab discussions. I’m still able to absorb, challenge, and constantly probe at conclusions we may already assume to know. Varying insights, perspectives, and knowledge are all welcomed within the lab. Different ideas are openly encouraged and Professor Hassenfeld makes clear it strengthens the richness of our research. There is always a new door, a new question being asked within the lab. 

For me, SCRoLL Lab has deepened my appreciation of our cognitive functions, socio-cultural influences, and overall development. The children we observe always ignite our curiosity within our lab meetings. From the studies we conduct, we observe beyond the children’s potential background knowledge of the verse, and uncover how the structure of schools, communities, and other cultural artifacts builds and regulates their imaginations surrounding what they read. There is never a day in which there isn’t something to analyze, dissect and discuss within the SCRoLL Lab.

Wintana Sium is a senior double majoring in psychology and African and African American studies with a minor in journalism. She has worked as a history research assistant under Prof. Abigail Cooper in her upcoming book, “Pierced Dimes and Placenta Fires,” analyzing how Black communities made use of folk knowledge to forge and liberate their identities. Wintana is a rising researcher eager to work within the archives to preserve the narratives of various cultures, ethnic groups, and communities, and strives to contribute toward a holistic and candid understanding of history. Additionally, Wintana designs curriculum courses for the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahdo Church Diocese of the U.S.A and Canada. She has created lessons regarding the history of the Eritrean Orthodox Church and topics surrounding iconography, liturgical history, dogma, creeds, and religious doctrines. Wintana is delighted to be a part of the SCRoLL lab, expanding her knowledge of the rich Hebrew Bible and its linguistic elements.