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The ESD journey continues...

March 07, 2018
It is important for schools to have an identity. It is even more important for schools to identify with something that every stakeholder can identify with. A clever way to create an identity for a school would be for the stakeholders to identify a phenomenon from the surrounding and incorporate it within the school structure and practices. The stakeholders develop an affinity to the identified phenomenon and work as a unit. 

This was evident during a school visit to the Hofit School (city of Rishon LeZion), where we got after a week of induction and amazing learning experiences with local educators. The school is well-known in Israel for implementing a comprehensive ‘water program’, which combines both place-based learning (and the place is a beach!) and the indoor practices.

As you can see in the photo, there is a specially built classroom on the beach nearby Mediterranean sea where the primary school students study safety techniques and learn to interact with the nature with care. Visiting the Hofit school has been an extremely practical and inspiring experience. We think that every school should understand that it is unique, and finding and using that uniqueness is crucial for school’s development and building the sense of school belonging in children and the teaching staff.

Our next stop that day was Rishon LeZion’s municipality youth center, where we had a chance to learn about the incredible work the Department for Youth is doing for the community by student volunteering initiatives.

One of the most thought-provoking and insightful experiences so far has been the discussions we had at the course leader’s improvised Cafe Dilemma. The concept of a cafe’ creates an atmosphere that facilitates free flow of information through informal, but guided discussions revolving around fairly general topics that are presented in form of a menu.
Each of the groups was presented with a menu of topics to discuss, all covering actual educational dilemmas and controversies. Probably the most useful thing was to reflect on the ideas together with the colleagues from all over the world and see how our perceptions not only sometimes contradict each other but more often add up to build a whole puzzle. For example, when discussing the situation where we represented a school principal, we had to prepare an action plan to apply for private sponsorship. In a group, we analyzed what aspects we consider the most important to reflect the ways in which the money would be spent. Thus, we spoke about indicators of teaching quality, student satisfaction and etc. It was a very live and useful discussion both in terms of networking and understanding the school effectiveness issue as such. 

The atmosphere in which the discussion happens is not the least important factor in facilitating a professional collaboration. In that sense the Cafe Dilemma itself is an example of taking care of those who have to decide on an uneasy issue and providing a warm and healthy environment for that. 

A common question in many educators’ minds is how to make learning relevant for their learners. And the obvious answer is normally to relate learning to everyday activities. However, many teachers struggle to identify the activities that are relevant to learners’ daily lives. This week, we were exposed to various ways to make learners learning relevant. One of the ways would be by asking learners to identify challenges that they face and come up with solutions to those challenges. A good example that can be applied in almost every situation would be the challenges with access to clean drinking water, the challenges of leakage of water and shortage of water. Learners can be challenged to offer viable solutions to the above challenges by undertaking school projects. To determine the viability of these projects, learners could partner with real, existing organisations that attempt to deal with the challenges. 

The organisations could use the fresh perspectives offered by learners while the learners could profit from the technical knowhow of the organisation, leading to meaningful learning. And ultimately, the existing challenges could be solved! 

Along with the professional visits and interaction with educators, the last couple of days surprised us with a special atmosphere. And by that we mean the the Cultural night event we had on Monday. Having inter and intra cultural communication is one of the most powerful human kind property for friendship. The cultural night acts as a melting pot of numerous values such as love, hospitality, respect for each other and unity in diversity through the different performances. It is fun to identify the part of world the individual comes from based on their costumes, the different symbolic meaning of similar actions; the same intention and varied cultural connotations attached to the performances. Kenya, Ethiopia, Cameroon, Tanzania, Kazakhstan, Vietnam, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Bhutan were a representation of the whole world converging in a single room. And although each country had its own songs and dances, it is quite interesting that all join in the song and dance with ease.  However, along with individual differences, these cultural variations make life beautiful and meaningful. These different hues add the necessary brightness and purpose that motivates the will in individuals to lead a good life. Another very memorable act was exchanging gifts to each other.  

What is important to maintain our levels of well being perhaps is creating as many experiences as possible. To laugh as much as we can, to create memories, cherish them later, meet as many people with diverse background and learn from each other’s culture, to never miss a travel opportunity. We grow when we appreciate diversity and understand the common thread that binds us all one as humans.

We believe when we have to ability to explore other cultures in our respective environment, it helps us to grow. Yes, we are the same as we are different. All of these things are beautiful. There is nothing about a homogeneous environment that sounds at all appealing or to which you can grow from. Yes, there are many cultures around the world that we would love to see and experience, but there are also so many around us that we should make a conscious effort to learn more about. Viva MASHAV!
1. Le Quoc Thang, Vietnam
2. Charles Maina Muigai, Kenya
3. Tamirat Gibon Ginja, Ethiopia
4. Aigerim Kopeyeva, Kazakhstan