Last Wednesday, the fifth grade class, hey-3, of Shivtei Yisrael School in Moriah traveled to Haifa to meet students they had been working with virtually all year. The students all participated in a day of discussion and "getting to know you" activities. But it was not your usual student get-together: The students came from two Jewish schools (one religious and one secular), and two schools with primarily Arabic populations (a Christian school and a Druze school).
Ruth Elias, the teacher of the class, spoke about how this program, called Tec4Schools, came to Shivtei Yisrael. “I heard about Tec4Schools by chance, and I fell in love with the idea. I love bringing together teaching and technology, so I decided that this would be a perfect program for my class,” she enthused.
The initial virtual meeting happened exclusively via computer, with no talking. “We didn’t want the students to hear each other at first, so they wouldn’t develop any prejudices or preconceived notions about the other children based on their accents. And this was an organic way to show them that we really all love the same things.” The students discussed their hobbies and favorite things. “Then, during the holidays, the students talked about what they did on their holiday. This was a great way to learn about the holidays in other religions.”
A few months ago, the schools held a culminating story project. One school started a story and another school finished it. The winning story was acted out by famous actors from the Arab and Jewish entertainment worlds.
This past Wednesday was the final meeting, where the students met face-to-face. “We divided the children into groups, with each group containing children from each of the four schools.” The children participated in games, did art projects and got to know each other by name. “And of course – most importantly – there was food!”
Each student received a Tec4Schools shirt, hat and a certificate of participation. “Unfortunately, very few religious schools were interested in participating in this project. We were the only religious school in Modiin that got involved.”
For next year, Elias hopes that the program will continue. “It depends if the students are interested in continuing – but based on their excitement today, I think they are! I would love to do it again,” she said. Tec4Schools allows only one class per school to participate. However, since so few religious schools have expressed interest, she is checking whether more Shivtei classes can be accepted for next year.