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PBL School: Pioneer of the Future

January 08, 2019

Today (26/11/2018) I joined the MASHAV group for a field trip at "the city of kids"- Holon. The municipality didn’t fail to be choosing slogan for its public image, and today I found out why.

We've been to "Ariel Sharon school"- a primary school built 7 years ago, designed to fit to Project Based Learning ( PBL ) in all levels. The principal shared with us how an educational tour at "High-Tech high" at San-Diego, California, inspired her to lead this method in Israel as well. No doubt, this inspired others as well- Ruty, the principal, led this technique at Holon with an enthusiastic community of principals, and yet finds time to guide this kind of tours casually in order to pass the knowledge forward. The school's success speaks for itself: in 7 years only, it grew from 200 students to 850!!

At the school we could see the kids working on the current project- for the higher grades, it was about the culture of Greece and Rome and how it impacts our modern life. All of the kids were working on their presentation: the final stage of the work they had done until this time of the year, for 6 hours per week. One of the kids was also able to explain us in English the essence of his project, about Julius Cesar and why he wants to be a leader like him. Even at the halls kids were sitting in small groups, giving feedback to each other and planning out how they would present it the best way in front of the teachers, classmates and parents. Without teacher supervision. 

                        Learning spaces at the hall, kids are working independently during PBL time 

 For the lower grades the subject was "values", in which kids explored what values mean and how they are expressed in daily life. The kids produced by themselves a short clip, visualizing how life would look without the value they choose and in contrast, with it. At the junior classes we could also see the class split to two: one half learns reading skills with the teacher while the other half draws quietly on personal white boards. This technique allows better attention dedication to the learning group, while giving the other little kids time to enjoy freely as kids are used to since kindergarten. 

                         Dividing the junior class into 2 for better results 

The school structure was very modern, clean and cut- edging. The colors were bright and happy, there were learning spaces all around- in and outside of the classes. There was a glass-map in the hall with information cards about countries which the kids made, and there were changing art exhibitions made by them on the walls, which showed how the kids are an active part of the school atmosphere- influencing and not just passively indoctrinated . The classes were shaped following the learning subject- a room for math, English and music, with suitable elements and educative props.


                       Juniors' complex from outside                             The glass-map and state cards 

The principal explained us the PBL process, and exclaimed the core values of school:
respect, giving, cooperation, listening, curiosity and empathy. The projects are also aimed to enhance kids' knowledge, skills and habits- shortly named KSH.
 The kids seemed happy, interested, focused at learning and motivated, and not shy at the sight of new people.

Teachers development

Afterwards we drove as 10 minutes to PISGA center- a professional, innovative development center for teachers. Those centers are common in Israel- there are 53 of them, within the scope of an hour drive for each teacher. Taking courses there is obligatory for teachers by the ministry of education and also incorporated as a salary bonus later. Yet, the uniqueness of this place is due to its being an active hub for teachers' initiatives: a place in which they can share and develop ideas, and also take part at its application together as a community. The center expresses innovation among the rest by bringing up new content and courses each year, accommodating itself to the schools' and the city's needs.

We set in round tables, at groups of 5, with teachers who developed their initiative through this center. My group met Danny, a 41 y.o teacher for lower grades. He arrived from the high tech and academic world into education, and after 7 years of teaching at the Montessori Method, thought of a great, handy application. In the app called "angles" (zaviyot) now ran as a pilot with the ministry of education, he addressed an inherent issue the system faces.

                  A lecture and round tables with Danny and other educator- entrepreneurs 

A kid nowadays is interacting with many figures- educator, professional teachers, consultant, manager, therapist and so on. The kid is seen to each teacher separately, and even then, each teacher has a hard time assessing the real qualities of a student. Social and emotional abilities are rarely systematically tracked, although they are the core functions of us as human beings. The app Danny created allows the school to decide its main checked values or personal skills, through which any teacher can "grade" the student upon a spectrum line. The app is user-friendly and tracks improvement or decline throughout the year. Another great feature of the app is the option it allows to upload any kind of material- pictures, files, recordings, etc. The program is heavily protected and permission is granted only to authorized people by the principal's decision. It is sponsored and invested by the ministry of education, and expected to be released within the following years.

At the ride back to Jerusalem I suggested the participants to taste some famous Israeli snacks- bamba, bamba Aduma, Bissly and dubonim. They seemed to enjoy the unfamiliar taste, while we exchanged thoughts and opinions about what we experienced earlier today. The participants told me about their roles and initiatives back home, as well as their wishes for the future opportunities to improve the situation of education there. It was very inspiring for me to meet those talented and ambitious people, which I'm sure will make even greater things at the future.
As it occurred to me better from this trip, innovation is expressed by the willingness of a person to take a leap of faith and follow his\ her idea of making the world a better place. 

                       Our group of entrepreneurs at Ariel Sharon school  

Roni Zedek 
Virtual Courses Coordinator