The Language Center brings together many of the core values of the Primary School into one multi-modal learning center dedicated to the development of a bilingual, multi-national school community practicing powerful cross-cultural communication. The physical structure is complete on the outside, including a grassy outside area and colorful walls, and the inside is progressing right on schedule. Bookcases and room dividers for different sections of the center, beanbag chairs and regular chairs and tables, props for role-playing, books, tablets, and more are ready to be placed over the winter break. But even more exciting than the building is the program that is taking shape. Two primary school instructors, Lutfiah and Ilanit, have taken charge of the project, and they are working with the organization Madrasa, which develops Arabic-language programming for schools, to create an entirely new kind of language-learning program – the first of its kind in Israel. This multi-modal language learning center will allow for the latest pedagogic research to be put into practice, allowing students to role-play real-world activities and build genuine conversational mastery of their second (and third!) languages. Nir Sharon, PS Educational Director: “The theory of peer learning is that children learn language best when they learn from one another. They learn to speak to one another, to explain to one another, and to help one another understand. It can be in a group or one-on-one. That way, we are working on strengthening the social network of the school and building friendships and at the same time we
are teaching language skills.” But Sharon, Lutfiah, and Ilanit are not working alone - they have been meeting with the entire primary school teaching staff to ensure the Language Center activities tie into the PS’s overall HOTAM (Education, Culture and Tradition) curriculum. And, of course, parents are an integral part of the learning process. In addition to assisting with preparations, parents will soon be able to participate even more fully, as in the next several years there are plans to open the Language Center to the wider school community as well.
The first month of the school year is one of new expectations, of new beginnings and the renewal of old friendships. And it is the beginning of a holiday season, and thus the beginning of a new cycle of learning about traditions and cultures.
Each class began to think about expectations in their own way. The sixth-graders colored in balloons with the theme “The Sky’s the Limit,” adding a few words about their last year in the primary school and beyond. For the first graders, an exercise in coloring in an “emotion clock” was meant to help students and teachers communicate about feelings – a helpful lesson when kids are all starting out with fears, excitement and resistance. In other classes, the children expressed their expectations through writing on cutouts of migrating birds that “flew” off together in the schoolyard or cutouts of their handprints each bearing a single word representing that child’s hopes for the coming year.
Getting the kids used to working together was also a part of the first month’s lesson plans. The second graders worked in small groups to build towers from straws and then talked about what was good or not-so-good about working together. The fifth graders had a “jigsaw” learning session in which each group took on a subject connected to one of the holidays, learned the material individually and then in groups, and then presented it in the group to the rest of the class. The fifth graders also had a “getting together” day of games in the schoolyard.
The school year is fraught with days that remind us that each of us grows up in a community and a religion, with a narrative that shapes our identity. That is why the school has begun a tradition: the Festival of Hope. On the evening of May 31, the entire village, school community and parents’ community were invited for an evening of entertainment, food and fun.
Coming near the end of the school year, it is a way for the children to celebrate the experience they have had over the year of learning and playing with friends of all kinds. And it is a chance for children, parents and village members to come together in the name of peace. The holiday is celebrated at a time when Jews and Arabs in the country are participating in events that remind them of freedom, but also subjugation, occupation and cultural and religious differences. The purpose of the Festival of Hope is not to erase these conflicting narratives, but to add a new one that celebrates not division but hope for peace and a better future.
The children were all dressed in white and they filed into the central school ground where lines had been laid out for them on the ground, showing them where to sit. With the help of a drone photographing them from above, they became a giant human peace sign.
The evening was also a festival of music, dance and theater. The students showed off the skills they had learned over the year in their extracurricular classes; playing instruments, singing, dancing and performing skits. A good laugh was had by all when they announced a skit called “refreshment break,” and the parents stood up and turned toward the tables laden with food.
the Primary School successfully accomplished a litany of laudable achievements in the latter half of 2021. These include:
The Fall semester is nearly over, and Primary School students are grateful to be back at their beloved school. Under the leadership of principal Neama Abo Dalu, teachers and students continue working with the HOTAM (Education, Culture, and Tradition) curriculum, setting the standard for bilingual, culturally inclusive education in Israel. In addition to instruction in Arabic and in Hebrew, students took part in activities and trips to further develop their understanding and appreciation for a spectrum of cultural traditions.
A large group of 5th and 6th-grade students participated in the Hekton Competition in Mateh Yehuda. The students presented ideas to help inspire Jewish students to learn Arabic, enhance the relationship between students and the environment, and make school a more interesting and enjoyable place for students.
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