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The Primary School looks ahead: an update from Anwar Dawod

Saturday 11 August 2007

Our new NSWAS Primary School principal, Anwar Dawod (see the recent article on Anwar’s appointment), has quickly rolled up his sleeves and is hard at work with the staff, currently in the peak planning period for the coming school year.

In order to fulfill our aspirations for the kind of experience the school stands for, Anwar says, “We want the students to study together – Hebrew speakers and Arabic speakers – as much as possible.” The shared learning environment is the touchstone of these children’s experience in our school. Of course, he adds, “there will be separate learning groups when necessary, as the subject requires in-depth verbal discussion.” This balancing act between bilingualism and optimal acquisition of lesson content is one of the unique challenges at which our binational staff is becoming increasingly adept. We continue to fine-tune the formula, in line with new research and our ongoing experience.

The new team: 80 years of solid experience

Anwar is finalizing an expanded school management team, as follows:

Anwar, as principal, will be coordinating all environment-related studies under one interdisciplinary curriculum, including a planned new “Zoo Lab” that revives a tradition from earlier years at our school. (We will circulate a proposal shortly.)

The team will comprise:

1. Leora Erez, assistant principal. Leora is from Moshav Zakaria, near Beit Shemesh, and has taught at our school for 11 years; she has been the school activities coordinator and will continue to serve in that role. As the health and physical education teacher, Leora will develop this year a Healthy School project, working with Reem.

2. Fatin Zinati, teacher of Arabic. Fatin has taught at our school for 9 years. She will sit on the executive committee and serve as Palestinian school activities.

3. Hezy Shuster, media teacher. Hezy, who is from Neve Shalom Wahat al Salam, has been with the school for 12 years. He will supervise student transportation.

4. Tzipi Zohar, also from the village, has taught art at the Primary School for the last nine years. Tzipi will coordinate in-service training for staff and administrators.

5. Yasmin Alkalek, first grade teacher and a village resident, has worked at the school for 10 years. Yasmin is also certified to teach children with special needs. She will supervise delivery of services to special-needs students.

6. Reem Nashef, science teacher, who has taught for 9 years at the Primary School, will coordinate the school’s science studies across the board. She will also be responsible for the scientific side of the “Healthy School” project.

Note that this team, collectively, brings to its work about 80 years of experience in our binational, bilingual educational system – a treasure trove of dedicated know-how.

New and noteworthy

We are introducing environmental studies as a holistic discipline that will provide an inclusive multidisciplinary perspective on our entire program of study and transform it into a school-wide curriculum. We will be forging connections between disparate pieces of the environmental puzzle that the students can relate to — like the use of cellular telephones, the quest for healthy foods, and the use of recycled waste water from the water treatment facility at NSWAS. Anwar, as principal, will direct the effort to instill this holistic perspective. Leora will focus on the health education angle and Reem on the science studies angle, and all other teachers will plug into the program in an appropriate way with support from key staff.

This program should resonate with our friends from our twin school near Oxford, UK; we are working now on ways to give this relationship added momentum.

Ecology: The two largest classes are working on the theme of our “ecological footprint,” with attention to our daily lives, the destructive effects of various kinds of radiation, the need to conserve water and energy. What, for instance, is involved in eating fast food like MacDonald’s, what happens to the trash, understanding and using environmentally-friendly cleaning agents and soaps. Expanding this program will interface with the Healthy School project and the two will proceed jointly, including a look at the effects of pesticides and herbicides on the earth and the human body.

Biotope: This will be a hands-on practicum for sixth graders, with activities centering on eight dates during the school year. Students will visit laboratories or other sites to observe animals or natural phenomena, and study them. We are reconstructing our school’s Zoo Lab (menagerie or petting zoo) to take advantage of our past experience with this kind of activity, and it will be integrated into the other environmental studies. We foresee great things for a student group of Zoo Lab Comrades. (A full Zoo Lab project overview is available.)

Agriculture: Study components will include the connection between people and the land; making it an earth-friendly relationship; the connection between agriculture and traditional holidays in Christianity, Islam and Judaism; environmentally friendly buildings and construction.

Bird-watching: We are planning a study of local birds, including a bird-banding day when students catch songbirds and band them for identification; then they wait for contact from whoever finds the birds next. This provides a lot of new information about the birds’ activities, movements and environment.

Zoo Lab: This project will be coordinated by Voltaire, of Neve Shalom - Wahat al Salam. (Separate proposal available.)

Health studies: Detailed planning of this curriculum is still underway.

Teacher training for integrated environmental studies

Anwar, as principal, will be participating in a training program for “Green Principals” to get experience and tools for effective oversight of the foregoing projects as components of an integrated program for the entire school.

The entire staff will undergo training, beginning in the fall during their preparation days for the first semester of the 2007-08 school year. Later, staff will visit a sophisticated environmental study programs at schools in Sakhnin and elsewhere. Programs the teachers will experience at these site visits will then be replicated for our own students.

Thank you everyone, for our new computers!

As you know, thanks to the generosity of Friends Associations around the world, our crucially needed computers have now been acquired and will make the school much more competitive with other schools and provide new technology-oriented learning opportunities for current and prospective students.

During the coming year, every single child at our Primary School will spend a minimum of one hour a week studying computer science and we are adding relevant teacher training so that staff can better integrate computer-based learning into their other lessons. We are truly grateful to all the Friends whose commitment to the school and the village has made all this possible – not just the new computers, but all the rest, too.

We know who our Friends are!! (This means YOU.)

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