By Ferne Hassan
A new middle school curriculum, “LINK: Discovering Your Israel Connection” is now available nationwide. The 6-lesson unit allows students to explore the historic Jewish roots to Israel while discovering their own personal, modern connection.
Through a sophisticated, interactive, on-line application, LINK was developed by teachers, curriculum writers and internet experts who understand the need for a dynamic, educational experience of this kind. The outcome is a platform designed to enable students to determine for themselves, through experiential and project based learning, their own, unique Israel connection.
Students discover an Israel not usually found in traditional Jewish curricula; an Israel whose actions are informed by Jewish values and reflect the best of what matters to today’s youth. They learn about an Israel that is diverse, where humanitarian aid is a priority, and where there are opportunities for refugees and economic migrants. They are inspired by an Israel whose innovations and technologies are improving and saving lives throughout the world.
“LINK: Discovering Your Israel Connection” is headed by Mina Rush, Director of Middle School Education and programming for StandWithUs, a sixteen year-old, international Israel education organization. Mina’s background includes being the Director of Outreach for Jewish World Watch where she also did programming in Jewish education.
“The motivation behind this endeavor was to create a program that could reverse Jewish students’ diminishing relationship to Israel as evidenced by recent polls. My experience showed that traditional methods of teaching did not always achieve the desired results. I realized that students are best able to connect when the material represents their core values. This realization led to the direction that LINK has taken,” explains Rush.
A year-long pilot program of 20 schools across the US was completed in July, 2017. Jewish day schools and Jewish supplementary schools participated in the study, representing all Jewish denominations. Data was collected from teachers and students to measure progress and to determine if educational goals were being met.
Data analytics revealed that after participating in the LINK program:
– Students showed a 45% increase in knowledge and understanding about Jewish continuity in Israel.
-Students showed a 55% increase in knowledge, understanding and challenges of Israel’s size, demographics and location.
– Students showed a 75% increase in knowledge and understanding of Israel’s diversity.
– Students showed a 78 % increase in knowledge and understanding about Israel’s role in global humanitarian and disaster aid as well as efforts Israel makes at home with refugee and economic migrant populations.
– Students showed a 60% increase in knowledge and understanding about the global impact of Israeli advances in technology.
Teachers reported that students readily engage in the lessons and look forward to their experience with the curriculum. They articulate not just an increase in knowledge, but pride in and a connection to Israel.
“The use of technology and the presentation of the information truly honors today’s teen. When our students in the school were surveyed, many stated that the LINK program was the favorite part of their school day,” states Sandy Borowsky, CJE, MS.ED, Educational Director Orangetown Jewish Center in New York.