After a fairly intensive period of learning about the spring holidays of Easter and Passover, the School went into a period of learning about the national holidays that include Holocaust Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day and Nakba (Catastrophe) Day. In commemorating these events, the school has been moving from a model of mainly separate, uni-national activity to a more integrative model of learning about these events together. Holocaust Day is always commemorated by both the Arab and Jewish pupils. This year, in addition to the ceremony at the school, the children also visited the photo exhibition (photo page 1)currently at the Pluralistic Spiritual Center, on the subject of Albanian Muslims who rescued Jewish neighbors during the Holocaust. Abdessalam Najjar explained the exhibit to the children.
Whereas Israel's Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and Independence Day are marked on the Hebrew dates (May 9 and 10 this year), Nakba Day is commemorated according to the western calendar (May 15). The pupils learn about the events together, and are separated only during the ceremony.
In the lobby of the school today is an exhibit of drawings by the children marking the national holidays. The children were asked to take a single sheet of paper and show the differences in the experience of the national holidays by the Arab children and the Jewish children. They have shown this in various creative ways, through detail and color. Some drawings show a happy child and a sad child. Some show bright, harmonious patches of color on one side of the page, with broken, discordant and dark colors on the other side. In the middle of the lobby is also a large depiction of Israeli and Palestinian flags, on separate sides. But a hand reaches from the center of each flag towards the centre. Each hand holds doves in the palm, which are in the process of being released.
The Zoo Lab is an educational and therapeutic initiative designed to encourage students (pre-K through 6) to learn about, interact with, and care for some of the animal species who share our world, in the context of a comprehensive interdisciplinary environmental studies curriculum. It is one of the many extra-curricular programs run by the Primary School to enrich the children's learning experience.
Last summer, Israel experienced record-breaking temperatures and this was very hard on the animals. Despite various experiments with ice and water, the Giant Rabbits (a special kind of rabbit) and chinchillas died. The children, on returning to school, were very sad about this. The birds managed all right, perhaps because some of these are warm weather varieties. Currently, there are cockatiels from Australia and doves from Africa. There are also parrots, guinea pigs. silkie chickens and ordinary rabbits.
All of the children in the school spend time with the animals for one class hour per week. The younger children mainly pet them and follow the progress of egg hatchings and births, etc. The older children take more responsibility. Among the tasks are gathering food, including kitchen waste, greens from nature and bought food (seeds and mixtures). They learn about how the animals protect themselves from parasites by eating herbs such as rosemary, and add these also to their food. Another responsibility is taking the waste from the floor of the zoo lab to use as compost in the plant nursery. All the children love the zoo lab, and some show a special penchant for taking responsibility there.
Every year, the Primary School chooses certain holidays for the children to celebrate. This year, due to the proximity of the Muslim Festival of the Sacrifice (Eid al-Adha), the Hijri or Muslim New Year, the Jewish Hanukkah holiday and Christmas, we prepared a celebration in common for all the children and their parents.
From the beginning of November, the teachers began discussing and planning the celebration, and divided the celebration among the classes, so that each class would play a particular role in the celebration. The children prepared art work, songs, plays and quizzes. The Eisenberg Family auditorium was decked out in holiday trappings and painting and drawings by the children were hung on the walls and windows.
A little after 6:30 PM, the parents and children took their places and the celebration began. We began by honoring a guest, the American philanthropist and benefactor of the school, Richard Goodwin and his partner Sondra, who were with us for the celebration, and then launched into the activities that the children had proudly prepared.
One activity led into another, from singing to processions illustrating parts of the pilgrimage to Mecca, to a visit of the three wise men, to the story of Hannukah, with respect and honor for each holiday and each religion, and some original ideas of presentation. The evening was fun for children, teachers and parents, and everyone learned something new about each other's faith and culture.
Last week, 210 Jewish and Palestinian children went back to school, from the Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam community and 30 communities around the village. This year, the teachers will implement the new curriculum developed in recent years, with greater focus on language education.
During the summer, the Primary School welcomed Jewish and Palestinian children from Israel, and 40 Palestinian children from refugee camps in the West Bank for summer camps. Daily activities were organized and children from the West Bank could swim in the sea for the first time. They also visited sites in the area such as Jaffa, and spent time with the Jewish and Palestinian children of the school who provided their first example of peaceful (and playful) coexistence between the two communities.
As the school is reaching the end of the year, the teachers have organized "special activity days" for the children. Mixing pedagogical goals and informal activities, the children got great opportunities to interact with other grades and learn at the same time.
During one of those days, the pupils from 2nd to 5th grade focused on practicing English. Stage plays, power-point presentations, short films and table games: all the children from 3rd to 5th grade prepared something in English to share with the others. One of the purposes is to introduce the youngest children in an entertaining and playful way to the study of the English language. Two other days focused on Hebrew and Arabic.
Later in June, an entire day was dedicated to a series of lessons all around the topic of health, from healthy nutrition to reflexology. The children from 1st to 5th grade moved from one station to another to meet with experts in the broad field of body and soul wellness. They learned about general medicine, dental hygiene, science of nutrition, veterinary medicine, reflexology and yoga. All the lessons were held in a very entertaining and amusing style, in order to stimulate the participation of all children.
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