Oct 25, 2019  By Amanda Feder  Category: Education,

The power of experiential education in Israel: 'Involve me and I’ll learn'

From a young age, I knew I wanted to become a teacher. I have a passion for learning and long to see and know as much as possible. As a student, I learned best when I was involved in the lessons: The more engaged and hands-on the experience, the better the chances of retaining what was being taught. 

When I became a teacher, I carried that mentality with me into my classroom, and I aim to make learning as experiential as possible for my students.

Growing up, I attended Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville, Maryland, and Israel was a core component of my daily life. Whether it was studying the Torah, listening to Israeli folk music, or learning about the country's vibrant history, my love for Israel has always been with me. 

I visited Israel a few times throughout elementary and high school, and with each visit I saw firsthand what I was taught in school -- Israel became my classroom.

It wasn't until I was finishing high school that I experienced Israel in a way that would completely transform my life. At my school, seniors graduate in February and spend what would typically be the last semester of high school living in Israel. My class attended Alexander Muss High School in Israel (AMHSI-JNF), and it showed me what an entire school built on experiential learning looked like.

We explored the country from ancient times to the present day, walked in the footsteps of those who helped make Israel what it is today, went on hikes, visited museums, and participated in activities that re-created the Jewish people's return to their homeland. Yet, what I appreciated most was that we were learning for the sake of learning. This unforgettable program at AMHSI-JNF was an experience of a lifetime, one that will never be forgotten.

When I moved to Chicago 10 years ago, I wanted to keep that passion for learning I gained in Israel and share it with my students. Jewish National Fund and JNFuture allow me to show my love of learning and Israel through my Zionism with other like-minded people. 

This past summer, I had the opportunity to visit Israel on the KKL-JNF Summer Educators trip, a unique tour for educators to learn about JNF's educational initiatives, which span from birth to boardroom and include Zionist and Israel programming in the U.S. and Israel. During my visit, Israel became my classroom once again, but this time I was joined by a different cohort -- my colleagues -- and I returned home energized, inspired, and ready to share that passion for Israel and Jewish National Fund.

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2019 issue of B'Yachad. Click here to read the rest of the issue.