Source: eJewish Philanthropy
As a teacher in Jewish early-childhood settings for over six years, I observed implementation of a wide variety of Israel curriculum. This experience inspired me to write my masters project about Israel education at a typical synagogue-based early-childhood program in Los Angeles. I interviewed 21 educators across a span of religious and ethnic backgrounds, including over a third non-Jews. Teachers were asked about their initial exposure to Israel, how they teach Israel in their classroom, and how they use Hebrew in their curriculum.
Israel education for our youngest learners ought to be just as emergent as the education we create for our secular subjects of education throughout the year. As part of a child-centered early-childhood philosophy, teachers can learn how Israel relates to their secular units. When they are learning about transportation, children could explore what Israeli buses look like, and each student could receive their own RavKav (transportation pass). When learning of animals and science, students could learn about animals native to Israel or inventions and scientific discoveries originating in Israel. The possibilities are endless and can be based on students’ identified interests. By integrating Israel in a child-centered approach, Israel would become a multi-dimensional culture that is as dynamic as the one in which they live.
This type of integrated education would require a deeper level of Israel education for our teachers as they begin to lay a foundation for Israel as a place that is not just special, but also ordinary. Jewish early-childhood centers have the power to inspire lifelong relationships with Israel. To maximize this opportunity, the Jewish community should provide pre-school teachers with an Israel trip so they can be inspired to teach passionately about the Jewish homeland. If this is unfeasible, then rabbis and educators should provide safe spaces to have in-depth adult-level Israel education and discussion. When we elevate early-childhood educators’ knowledge about Israel, Israel has the power to become a real and dynamic society, rather than a once-a-year holiday. Having a relationship with Israel has become a cornerstone of the American Jewish experience; it is time that we invest in our teachers so that they can develop a more sophisticated relationship with Israel, laying a foundation for students’ relationship with Israel to exist beyond one day a year.
Read the entire post at eJewish Philanthropy.