An Empowering Learning Space
They are the best neighbours we could ask for, but we take them for granted. Once a year, on Tu B’Shvat, they take centre stage, and we remember their great contribution to our lives, but the next day we forget about them. But they are here to stay and we can all benefit more from them.
Much has been said in our field about the experiential approach to meaningful learning. Study programmes rise and fall and professionals continue to work hard on learning processes. But we often forget that ‘nature is right under our noses’, or – under the tree, next to it and inside it. Most of us are aware that trees are essential for the existence of humans and the ecosystem, but it turns out that we can use trees to teach a wide range of fields of knowledge that are not necessarily ecological. Yes, yes, even mathematics lessons.
At Ramat Hanadiv there is an ongoing educational programme in natural spaces; a professional development process designed for teachers from different fields of knowledge who want to turn the school garden or nearby natural space into a learning space. This month the programme hosted Israel Galon, director of the Flowers and Plant Engineering Division at the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. Galon gave us a glimpse of the magical world of the trees around us. We learned that the air we breathe is of much higher quality when we are near trees – they absorb carbon dioxide from the air and produce oxygen for respiration. We were reminded that they provide shade and cool the environment on hot, summer days in Israel, and we discovered that a ‘tree house’ is not just every child’s dream, but the natural reality of birds, butterflies and other animals that make it their habitat. And of course, we didn’t forget how much they decorate and improve our urban landscape.
Nevertheless, besides the natural contribution of trees, we discovered that we can turn the trees near us into an empowering learning space that supplies us with easily available tools for study and wonder across many fields of learning. Once we realised that the tree behind the classroom can easily replace the board and the digital presentation inside it, we decided to develop, in partnership with the study unit, the subject of trees in different knowledge fields – the ‘Tree of Knowledge’. We began by thinking about a ‘tour of wonder’ that allows us to study trees like we’ve never studied them before; to use our imagination and connect to the hidden world. Suddenly we realized that calculating the circumference of a tree trunk, or the area of a leaf, gives us a practical understanding of ‘dry’ mathematical concepts. If we encourage writing a story about a tree we’ll reach sources of inspiration as well as benefiting from an unconventional exercise in language elements. It follows that the path to developing new and creative ideas is becoming shorter; we will continue to work on developing them.
During the year we’ll upload the teachers’ products to the website of Ramat Hanadiv and create a ‘bank’ of methods to enable all of the region’s teachers find ideas and conduct experiential and fascinating study meetings about trees. We recommend that all educators in our region go outside sometimes to get a break from the virtual reality that controls us, and together with their students, experience ‘the real thing’ with all of their senses.
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