Virtually every day, groups of educators arrive at Ramat Hanadiv for introductory classroom and field studies of environmentalism, preservation and sustainability. After just a taste of these subjects, most of these visitors leave at the end of the day hungry to learn more -- and Ramat Hanadiv is happy to help them do so.
One such group, eight pre-school teachers from the village of Arara, came to Ramat Hanadiv for a 'Green Gardens' seminar a year ago -- and for an enthusiastic return visit not long ago. The 'Green Gardens' at schools throughout Israel engage pupils in nature through both learning and doing. Teachers receive special training -- like the seminars at Ramat Hanadiv -- in order to conduct activities in the gardens, and based on the success of these activities, the Ministries of Education and Environmental Protection award them with an official 'seal of approval'.
The pre-school teachers from Arara, all of whom have received or are in the process of receiving official recognition for their Green Gardens, decided after their visit to expand their Ramat Hanadiv connection. Led by Ms. Imhanah Marzuk, they contacted our Education Department and proposed a project that would be dedicated to their pint-sized pupils. Together with our education staff, the teachers created and launched a new programme: a series of five learning sessions at Ramat Hanadiv around the subjects of sustainability and preservation, in terms that young children can understand.
When the nursery schoolers arrive at Ramat Hanadiv, accompanied by their parents and other adults from their school, they are welcomed by Mahfuz el-Hattib, a senior staff member of Ramat Hanadiv with a vast knowledge of plants and folklore. On every visit the kids have a tour led by Ramat Hanadiv experts,, and they take part in experiential and creativity activities. Additional activities take place in the gardens, where the entire group will celebrate Family Day together, and at the end of the school year they'll enjoy a whole day of activities related to sustainability.
Educators know that it is particularly important for kids in early childhood to learn to name and describe the things they encounter in nature and elsewhere. So, for instance, at their session on trees, they're taught to identify the many kinds that grow at Ramat Hanadiv, and the differences among them. They learn about the various parts of trees, the events in a tree's life cycles, and their uses. These experiential activities with trees facilitate further learning, like how to track a tree's life cycle of a tree from the time it's a tiny plant and to observe how it eventually grows to the height of a building. The kids see how, at the end of a tree's life, it can be returned to nature via the process called composting. They see how the trunks of trees are composted, then returned to enrich the soil. Thus they discover the meaning of recycling and economical use of resources. At the same time, they're exposed to mathematical concepts like measuring the size of a tree trunk: a few kids encircle an old tree, figure out how to estimate its size, and then compare the heights of different kinds of trees. They learn horticultural vocabulary and materials and to recognize the shapes and colours of leaves while investigating the different parts of the tree through their sense of touch.
Another meeting revolves around the birds at Ramat Hanadiv. The children learn how to watch feathered creatures, and a film introduces them to the Raptor Project, which rehabilitates and returns rare birds to nature. They see a model of a stuffed eagle and view a film about tracking birds through ringing and vocal[???remote?] transmissions. Observing nests of barn owls, the pre-schoolers become aware of birds' role as biological exterminators and are told how they can avoid the use of dangerous chemicals to kill weeds and pests. Then, for fun and fascination, the kids build their own bird feeders, designed specifically to attract the gardens' song birds.
After learning how to observe nature on high, the children are introduced to animal life on the soil and beneath the stones. They meet arthropods, invertebrate animals like butterflies, spiders and centipedes, and find out why colour is so important in nature. They see a butterfly exhibit, and staff members demonstrate how butterflies are caught for research and study purposes. The children learn how to identify other animals by their tracks and their droppings. At Ramat Hanadiv's spring, they're taught about the things that spend their lives in and around sweet water.
This and other collaborative projects at Ramat Hanadiv's Education Department encourage educators active in their communities to come up with innovative, creative teaching ideas, and offers whole-hearted support as they develop and carry them out. The Green Gardens project in particular also stimulates and fosters the involvement of parents, who transport and accompany these very young children to and from their activities, helping to ensure the success of the programme while strengthening the link between the professional educators in their community and Ramat Hanadiv's teaching expertise.
For more information, please phone the InfoShop at Ramat Hanadiv: Tel. 04 629 8111