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Fulfilling a sweet dream

‘As teachers, our teaching is limited most of the time to the classroom, to the lab, but the real thing happens outside. In this project, the students learn up close and on the ground. This is much better than trying to learn that in the classroom.’

Written by Magi Mualem, teacher at the ORT Danciger school in Kiryat Shmona, Israel

It is very early. The sun has risen just a little while ago over Kiryat Shmona – a town in the north of Israel. 23 biotechnology students from ORT Danciger school are waiting with great excitement in the yard. Everyone is excited and a little scared of what is to come the next moment.

They have prepared for three months for this moment – the moment when they begin to feed the “subjects” of their experiment. It all began about half a year ago, during the Coronavirus period. I told my biotechnology class that they are going to perform a project (at that point they didn’t know what the topic was). Then I gave them some basic principles for the project:

  1. It should not be carried out via Zoom but in real life!!
  2. It is important to have an experiential project that will leave us all with a “sweet memory”.
  3. The products of the project must be innovative and exciting.
  4. No virus or infinite isolation will prevent us from carrying out sections 1,2,3.

About three months later we told the student what the topic for the project was – the honey bee. Immediately after revealing the topic we started working, more or less according to the following steps:

  • Step One: Students screaming out of concern and excitement (at least those who are afraid of “insects”).
  • Step Two: In-depth learning about the life of the bee, the significance of bees in our world and of course the danger in their continuous disappearance in recent years. This learning phase included observing a transparent hive, listening to lectures by researchers in the field of bees, and conducting quite a few discussions about the importance of bees in the world.
  • Step three: We created 5 “start-up companies” – 5 groups of students, each group was asked to solve a problem related to the honey topic. The students researched, asked, read, and evaluated, and then decided what they wanted to test as part of the project and what would be the final product.
  • Step four: setting up the experiment, placing some real beehives in a field next to our school. This is why the class arrived early in the morning to feed the bees, care for them. After a long hour, with all the humming and buzzing all around us, we managed to get all the students to calm down. The students got dressed in special outfits, looking like some weird astronauts. Regev, my colleague, sprayed smoke to calm the bees (and the students), and only then was it possible to begin.

I saw them – 23 students of the new generation. They are said to be a different generation, irresponsible and uncaring, connected to the screen and themselves. I saw 23 compassionate, interested, intelligent students. Those students who asked great questions, treated bees with great love, believing that they are an important part of our lives.
This project will allow students to receive a grade in their final exam in biotechnology. But this is the smaller profit they earn. The project opened for the students a door to the real world, to nature. As teachers, our teaching is limited most of the time to the classroom, to the lab, but the real thing happens outside. In this project, the students learn up close how a tiny bee population works, and how the bees collaborate for the common good. This is much better than trying to learn that in the classroom. As their teacher, I learned that the world of students was huge and flexible and that I just had to open a door for them, invite them in, and they would come. Then the magic happens – a good and fun experience, instructive and most of all, one that allows each of them to express themselves and enjoy learning.

At the end of the day we collected honey from the hives and everyone licked and tasted it, and mostly enjoyed. On the way back to our school, the students said it was a successful day, and certainly the sweetest experience they have ever had in school!

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