Growing Together

“Growing Together” is a joint program for Arabs and Jews at the Ecological Greenhouse in Kibbutz Ein-Shemer. The program creates encounters between young individuals from different sectors in Israeli society – strengthening mutual understanding and openness, through shared experiences and exploration of science, ecology and agriculture.  During the last five years, more than 300 students from 10 different schools took part in thie project, creating new connections. 

we have published a training manual for teachers who wish to adopt the program. Entrepreneurs, teachers, and educational institutions who wish to develop and implement multi-cultural programs can use this guide, and you can download it for free - here.

The Goal – Water Treatment:

Throughout the project, which lasted three months, the students worked in teams of 4 (2 students from Arab communities and 2 from Jewish communities), and explored shared challenges: treatment of sewage water that arrives from barns, to allow for reuse in agriculture.

 This field of study was chosen for several reasons:

Environmental : water is a fundamental resource needed by all – humans in every society, plants and animals. The challenge presented to us by water shortage globally and nationally, creates an urgency and shared set of goals.  The students are driven by this reality and see great potential for themselves as the young scientist of the future. 

Social:  the entire Middle East is experiencing severe water shortage.  Water therefore has the potential for creating joint projects and cooperation.

Current challange.  This is an agricultural effort closely related to current trends in green industries: water shortage is creating tremendous scientific and industrial solutions aimed at efficient water usage and reuse. 

The joint educational program began with a tour of the Ein-Shemer cowsheds, for gaining an appreciation of the field first hand.  After studying the fundamentals of the field, including: basic terms, measurement techniques, working in the lab, and the stages for building an experiment – the students split up into groups, and began to plan their experiment process. The students took water from the Ein Shemer cowshed, and prepared comparative experiments for treatment of the water: 
1) By using plants that consume ammonia (such as Pistia and Lamina)

2) Treatment through oxygen consuming bacteria.

The students measured nitrate levels, created aggregated data and graphs, and presented their findings before an audience.  The project summary was presented at the Eco-Greenhouse exhibition before school principals and parents. The project was guided by Dr. Ilana Iron, Ruan Biadasa, and Itamar Avishai, from the Eco-Greenhouse educational team.
During the program, special emphasis was placed on the following themes: 
Social skills: team work, cooperation, collaboration, and bridging language gaps.

Experimentation skills:  planning and implementation of experiments, chemical measurements of water quality, recording data, analysis of data, presenting scientific findings before audiences (parents, teachers, guests), building with wood, using recycled materials and creating a presentation poster. 
Terms and concepts:  sustainability, the human impact on the environment, water contamination, natural water cycles, nitrates (nitrification), biological indicators for water quality, water treatment facilities, treatment of water with bacteria, water treatments through plants, as well as terms relating to scientific processes, and experiments – controls, repetition, singling out variables, and data presentation. 

Experiences and Impressions:

Dr. Ilana Iron,”Growing Together” Program Director:

As a Tel-Aviv University scholar, meeting enthusiastic 6th graders, who are creating experiments for cleansing water through different methods – was an inspirational encounter.   But their ability to work jointly, Arabs and Jews, with all their language barriers, was even more profound and moving.  These kids, that rarely have the opportunity for meeting “the other” curiously interacted and found this experience to be a very pleasant one.   The program proved, that when confronting shared challenges - cooperation, and bridging of conceptual and cultural gaps – is possible. 


Wael Muasi – Principal of the Al-Khuraismi Elementary School, Bakah Al-Garbiye:

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the “Growing Together” educational staff that worked tirelessly on the successful implementation of the program – thereby allowing students to have experiential learning, in a supporting, nurturing environment.   The program was interesting and invigorating, and opened up new possibilities for connections between Arabs and Jews – yet we must find ways to deepen and strengthen these types of initiatives. 
Tamaam, an Arab student participated in the program: 

I never met Jewish kids before the program… I was worried, because I don’t speak Hebrew very well, but as soon as we started talking, the fear was gone… later, the relations between us strengthened, and the meetings were very enjoyable, full of laughter. It was great.  There was one friend who learned a few words in Arabic, and we would laugh together.  Yes, I would love to continue with these gatherings, I miss them.   
Noa – a Jewish student fparticipated in the program:

I only knew very few Arab kids before the program, and I never stayed in touch with them… at first, I felt that I will probably have difficulty in connecting with them, but later, it was great.  We cooperated and had a lot of fun… the tried learning a few new words in Hebrew, I tried a few words in Arabic... I would like to meet them again.
Looking Ahead:

Strengthening and Expanding the Program, and Resource Development: 
Due to the evident success of the pilot program, and due to requests from additional schools that wish to join, we are working on development and expansion of the Growing Together program.   

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