Students show off the fruits of project-based learning
Last week, Dror Israel’s network of 8 high schools throughout the country concluded the challenging and unique 2020/2021 school year. The schools, located throughout Israel’s social and geographic periphery, serve over 1,100 students who come from diverse, mostly troubled backgrounds. Most of the students have been rejected from other educational frameworks and Dror represents their “last chance.” The schools were given special permission to safely maintain in-person studies throughout most of the year in order to provide a proper and consistent framework for at-risk youth from difficult homes, even during the pandemic. The students and teachers took full advantage of their ability to meet and learn, and as the school year wraps up, they wanted to share what they’ve learned with their friends and family.
After a year marked by isolation, the students were thrilled to have the opportunity to gather with the entire school community. Each school hosted students’ families and members of the school’s local community for an inside look at the school and the students’ projects.
The pedagogy of Dror Israel’s high school network focuses on project-based learning – an approach which combines different subjects to create a multidisciplinary and innovative learning experience for the students which includes a variety of unique vocational training tracks.
These projects represent the culmination of their studies this semester, displaying knowledge and new skills. While the entire school network shares a common pedagogical approach, the curriculum and vocational tracks of each school differ based on the unique resources and needs of the school’s surroundings and community, and the students’ projects reflect this.
For the first time in almost two years, the high school in the Krayot region outside of Haifa was thrilled to gather the entire school community, including parents, friends, and partners from throughout the country for their end of year event. One of the outstanding projects presented at the event was skits written and performed by the students about the reality of COVID-19 and the issues facing Israeli society over the past year. The skits were followed by round table discussions which allowed the students, as well as the event’s guests, to express and share their own personal experiences of the past year.
Zohar Avigdori, an educator at the school noted that ”amid the humming sound of over 400 people filling the air of our sports field, we felt once again what our school is all about- being a home."
The Dror school in Bat Galim, which is finishing only its second school year, hosted a festival in the school’s courtyard. Organized by the students, the festival welcomed over 400 family members and neighbors to get an inside look into the amazing things that happen in this new school. The festival featured different stands and stations which showed off the various student projects from the past year, including projects from the oceanography and new media vocational tracks. Among the projects was a “Social Film Fest” where the new media track presented short films they made about local heroes in Haifa during Covid-19.
The students also chose to organize a community fundraising event to raise scholarships for classmates interested in attending summer leadership courses.
At Dror’s Choshen high school in Jerusalem, each grade hosted a separate event for their parents to give them a look into the hard work and growth that has happened throughout the year. One ninth grade class, after learning about slavery and emancipation in the US, chose to write and illustrate a children's book about the life of Harriet Tubman. The book, written in Hebrew and illustrated with gorgeous mixed-media images, aims to share the story of Harriet Tubman’s leadership and bravery with Israeli children who are unfamiliar with American history.
At the network’s southernmost school in Mitzpe Ramon, students presented their various projects in the form of a visual exhibition. The exhibit opened with explanations about their vocational tracks as well as about the school’s project-based pedagogy, and featured posters highlighting notable projects from the past year.
Among the projects presented was the tenth grade class’s ”expression“ project. Throughout their work on the project they studied visual and language arts with a focus on poetry and photography. Each student presented four photographs which symbolize the process of growth and change that they have gone through over the past year. The result was touching and remarkable and left an impression on everyone who had the chance to see the exhibit.
At the Dror High School in Karmiel, a highlight of the end of year event was a play written and performed by the graduating 12th grade class. The play tells the story of their class- a group of teens coming from very diverse backgrounds, each with a unique and complicated personal history. Throughout the play they reflected on the friction and difficulties that at times arose between them, as well as on their process of growing and understanding one another. They used the play as a platform to share their touching personal story with their families and community as an example of how very different people can choose to connect their lives to one another.