In keeping with the idea that learning takes place at all times, everywhere, lessons take place in the school buildings, in the schoolyard, and off school premises. There is individual and group learning, and each child, in dialogue with the staff, decides what classes to take.
The school is divided into three age group sections and one special education class:
- Preschool through 3rd Grade - for children age 4-8
- Elementary School - for children age 8-12
- High School - for children age 12-18
- The Yahad Special Education Class - for children with moderate
developmental disabilities and Down syndrome.
Preschool through 3rd Grade
The mentors for the Preschool through 3rd Grade group aspire to give the children the freedom to be themselves, to create worlds for themselves, and to organize them without interference. We believe that a child’s learning is acquired through trial and error. In order that children have the opportunity to learn, they need time, and so we allow them to move and operate freely, as they choose, within the defined timeframe.
This section is home to all the children from preschool through 3rd grade and is divided into 3 “houses,” two of which—the orange house and the green house—are for children age 4–6 (about 60 in all), and the third—the purple house—for the 2nd and 3rd graders (about 30 in all). The houses are just that—3 buildings which serve as home and activity area for the children. Each house contains corners for play, creativity, learning, and more, and the children are free to use the games in the house, to work in the creative corner, and to participate in the classes offered to them. Adults are present throughout the day in each house, their job being to offer assistance to the children and help them with whatever they need—to accompany them on their chosen path.
The elementary school serves as a meeting place between older students and those who have just moved up from the younger section or are new to the school. The children in this section range in age from 8–12, about 90 students in all. Because the school is multi-age, children from the younger and older sections are frequent visitors to the elementary school. This area serves as a home-base for the children, and they can linger here as they wish. An adult, whose job is to address the children’s needs, is present throughout the day.
During the day the children move, as they choose, among various activities in the kitchen and dining area, in the creativity and costume corners, the rest and conversation areas, as well as in the classroom and in the independent study room, where they can sit and read or study independently. In the elementary school building the children meet with their mentors, cook meals with the adults, and prepare meals for the other children.
The High School
High school is the third stage of school, where a final “breaking out” from the more sheltered sections takes place. In the high school a variety of “living spaces” are offered: committee work, various classes, learning centers, sports fields, the parliament, and the schoolyard, which functions as a place for meeting and learning. Each of these areas, with its own unique character, provides a place for the students to grow and serves as a launching pad to the outside world.
The “Yahad” Special Education Class
The “Yahad” class, now in its 8th year, is designated for a group of young adults, age 18-21, who are struggling with Down syndrome and who study in the school until the age of 21. The students in the class are integrated into the various school activities—lessons, field trips, parliament, and committees. In addition, all their special needs are addressed. The personal and class curriculum is directed towards leading an independent adult life, and in its framework the students gain experience in social, family, and home life, as well as sexuality and work. The students are integrated, once a week, in a practice employment framework where they work in one of the different branches of Kibbutz Gan Shmuel and also attend additional social/community activities in the school neighborhood.
Some Examples of Learning Centers:
The schoolyard -
Every student is familiar with the schoolyard. Every student in the school has found something there, discovered something, and learned something. Activity in the schoolyard is characterized by the mixture of different age groups, in the main schoolyard and in the peripheral areas. This is the heart of the school, where ‘the really important things’ take place. Learning takes place there throughout the day—individually and in groups, doing things, talking, building, and playing.
Activities take place in the schoolyard throughout the year: football, mud sculpture, cops and robbers, conversation, card games, coffee drinkin, gardening, and more.
The P.I.L. (Projects, Initiatives, and Learning) Center -
The P.I.L. Center enables the chaperoning, assistance, and support of students in the journey by which their ideas, whether theoretical or practical/social, become reality: the students are guided through the stages of realizing and carrying out their ideas. All activities in the center are initiated by the students themselves. On the theoretical side, students can research and study any subject that interests them. The students adapt their learning to the method and pace that suits them best, under the aegis of the adults in the center. On the social side, it is possible to organize, initiate, and volunteer for ongoing or one-time activities
The Art Center -
The art center is a large space that consolidates within it a drawing/painting workshop, an incubator for ideas, a place for rest and conversation, as well as a gallery of changing exhibits. The center is open to anyone who wants to paint, sketch, simply touch the paints, pencils, and paper, or is interested in art books or contemporary art journals. In the center group lessons are offered, where every student is granted individual attention and the opening of a ‘learning window’ that is adapted personally to where the student stands now and what he or she aspires to.
In the photography center students can acquire the tools and the language of photography, as a personal search through photographic expression or by becoming familiar with photography in its cultural framework. A variety of classes are offered, dealing with photographic techniques, familiarity with different artists, and with the different ways of developing personal and group creativity. The center is designated for students of all ages, and it is open to group and individual work, with guided progress in a manner suitable to the student.
The music center opens a door to guided musical endeavor and gives students the tools they need to develop in the field. The center serves students engaged in making music, practicing independently or taking part in listening sessions. Students can also acquire basic skills on different musical instruments, with ample opportunity for playing in groups, composing music, studying musical theory, working on adaptations, or playing together in preparation for a performance or a recording session.
The library -
The library is a place for meeting stories. In the library students can do research, browse, read, and discuss stories. It is a place that fosters study, learning and research, reading, quiet conversation, listening, or watching movies and programs.
The carpentry shop -
In the carpentry shop students are invited to create, under guidance, according to their desires and abilities. Some students make implements for practical use, some make toys, and some use wood as a material for sculpture. Students young and older work together in the carpentry shop, each one progressing at his or her own pace in a process that culminates in a finished product, while at the same time learning techniques, proper use of tools, safety rules, and project planning.
The Science Center -
The science center includes a laboratory, two classrooms, a study and reading corner (lobby), a hothouse, and a petting zoo. In the center the students study topics in science, nature, and the environment. There are frontal lessons and activities in open centers where students can write papers, do homework, carry out individual study agreements and various initiatives. The center houses a video library on many interesting topics, and board games and strategic games can be played there as well.