Teaching Israel Through an Early Childhood Lens
The learning experiences we share together are relevant to each child as an individual learner. This is known as Constructivist Education. When we listen deeply and observe children intentionally, we create pathways for social-emotional and academic success.
In a constructivist classroom setting, you will see:
- Students working in groups
- Teachers interacting and having a dialogue with children, helping them to reach their own conclusions
- Curriculum that emphasizes big concepts
- Learning that builds on what students already know
- A pursuit of knowledge that follows students’ questions and interests
- Assessment based on the entire learning process
The art of inquiry is very important in Jewish practice. We call this drash. Jews are sometimes known for answering a question with a question. So, in this way, using constructivism in your classroom helps to create a Jewish environment.
WHERE DO WE START?
Before planning any learning, an educator should ask themselves these questions:
- What do I want the children to take away from this exploration of/about Israel?
- Is it developmentally appropriate and relevant to the child’s life and life experience?
- Can it be explored through one or more of the five senses?
- How does it reflect our classroom goals?
- What excites me about this topic?
HOW DOES THIS TRANSLATE TO LEARNING ABOUT ISRAEL?
- What big topic are you addressing?
- People, History, Geography, Judaism, Hebrew, etc.
- What, if any, familiarity do your students have with this topic?
- Elements of the topic explored previously
- Family and friends who live in Israel
- Pictures of students or teachers visiting Israel
- Pictures or artifacts around the school
- How relevant is this topic to your students?
- If they don’t know their local geography, it will be hard to teach them about geography in another country. Keep it on a level that they can compare to their own world and experiences.
- Find out what they know and are excited about and then make connections based on that.
- What connections to the students’ lives can you offer?
- Ask families and teachers to bring in photos and other artifacts from Israel trips.
- Invite Israeli parents or family members to talk about their lives and memories from Israel.
- Use virtual tours to bring a specific location in Israel to life in the classroom!
- Plan a video call with children in Israel, or send video messages back and forth.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR OPEN-ENDED DISCOVERY
1. What materials will you make available?
2. What stories or experiences can you share?
3. What learning stations might you set up?
Once you decide on an area of focus, create interactive areas of exploration that include books on the topic, hands-on artifacts, and photos or other media. Check out the Shuk Exploration program as an example!
PLAN FOR USING LEARNING STATIONS
Organize each of your learning centers so that it contains materials appropriate to the concept(s) the students are exploring.
How will you structure students working together?
How will you foster dialogue necessary to assess your students’ current thinking?
INTRODUCING THE TOPIC
It can be simple or elaborate.
Estimate the amount of time students will need to explore the concept(s).
Help students to scale the “size” of their investigation to what is manageable in the time allotted.
PLAN FOR LEARNING
Once you have given students the time to determine what they need to know and “discover” the new knowledge, introduce the concept you wish to visit by addressing the questions that arose from their exploration. Find the thread that interests them most, and follow it!
What investigation(s) might students undertake to frame questions and hypotheses? Consider the students’ questions and their interactions with the materials to determine where you should direct their attention next. How will you help them to dig deeper into the content and achieve your learning goals for this topic?