Dror Galil is a high school geared primarily towards students who have trouble learning in more traditional high schools. Dror Galil is one of several high schools all over the country operated by Dror Israel. The school is located in the north on the first kibbutz founded by the Dror movement, Ravid.
While I was there, I spoke with a student named Tamar who used to go to a religious all-girls school. Every day, she said, they would take notes on the lessons written on the blackboard and at the end of the week they would be tested on it. Tamar struggled with the tediousness of the curriculum and, as a result, was doing poorly in school. At Dror Galil, however, she told me she is excited to come to school each day and has even voluntarily stayed late after school hours to work on her projects. Tamar is currently working on a piece of art she hopes to be installed at shelters for women who have suffered from domestic abuse. She hopes her artwork, which is modeled after Indian prayer bells, will inspire self-confidence in the residents of the shelter. It is beautifully put together with wood and cooper, and etched into the side it reads in Hebrew – האתגר הוא לא להיות מושלמת אלא להיות שלם – “The challenge is not to be perfect but to be whole.”
Students at Dror Galil can choose from two curricular tracks to guide their studies - Life-Improving Technology or Agro-ecology. Each track has a corresponding lab that is filled with equipment that they can use to work on their projects. In the engineering lab, there are 3D and laser printers, tools for soldering, and more. Recently, the students had designed tools that allow people with special needs who have difficulty working with clay, to create ceramics. They created 3D-printed objects that can be easily rolled onto the clay to create beautiful geometric patterns. In the agriculture lab, the students were busy learning about mycelium and the complicated role fungi plays in the ecosystem. They are using their knowledge to invent less expensive ways of growing mushrooms. They are currently growing several types of mushrooms and will soon harvest and sell them at local markets.
The Dror Galil curriculum is fascinating. The central operating idea is that students find a real problem in society create and then implement workable solutions to it. As only one example, the students realized that the sirens in Israel warning people to find shelter and safety from incoming rocket attacks are not able to effectively warn the members of the Israeli deaf community. Those who are hard of hearing in Israel are reliant on other people or apps on their cellphones to let them know when they need to take cover from attacks. The students of Dror Galil decided to find a solution to this problem. To accomplish this, they spoke with health insurance companies, representatives of the government, people from the deaf community, engineers, and many other experts.
Using the information they gathered, they developed a technology based on LED lights that warn people in the deaf community when rocket attacks are incoming. Anyone with this technology can put strips of lights on their phone or on the ceiling of their room, for example, and the lights will light up red whenever the sirens begin to sound. After creating an initial prototype, the Israeli Ministry of Health awarded this group of students a 500,000 shekel ($150,000) grant to develop a mass-producible prototype that will eventually be distributed to members of the deaf community in Israel.
The students were so successful in developing this idea, their classroom at Dror Galil is now the official R&D department for this technology. In the development of just this one project, they learned about every aspect of a problem in their community and spoke with people from multiple professions, industries, and with diverse life experiences relevant to the issue. Using the data collected, they created a workable solution to a very real problem and were able to see their hard-work and dedication significantly improve the material lives of people all across the country.