It was a birthday which would have made Albert Einstein kvel: on the 133rd anniversary of his birth, thousands of Israelis – Jewish, non-Jewish, religious and secular – celebrated science with experiments and activities sponsored by World ORT.
This, the fifth Science Day to be organised by World ORT on the birthday of one of its most famous supporters, was marked by children in the 48 schools which are now affiliated to the organisations as well as 20 of the 27 education centres in public hospitals which World ORT supports through the Kadima Mada – Kav Or programme.
“Both as a way of making science attractive to children and of fostering goodwill and co-existence between Israel’s communities, Science Day is a great success,” said the Acting Head of the World ORT Office in Israel, Avi Ganon.
Many of the participating schools focused their activities on this year’s official theme in school-level education – healthy living. But while everything was coordinated with World ORT, which also provided each school with budgetary support, the details were left to teachers and students. “We’re giving schools the chance to do things they wouldn’t normally do,” said Pedagogical Coordinator Nechama Kenig. “For two weeks leading up to Science Day, teachers and students have been staying late at their schools making preparations. The benefits are plain to see: by doing, students learn more than when they are passively listening.” The high school at the Galilee town of Kfar Kana marked its first Science Day this week, its 300 students performing various chemistry and physics experiments to reveal the mechanisms behind various everyday phenomena as well as guest lecturers, and activities examining environmental and health issues. “It was a very busy day,” said chemistry teacher Subhia Taha. “We explained scientifically why popcorn pops and the processes involved in baking and we had a lecture given by Agudat HaGalil, the National Arab Association for Research and Health Services. I want to thank World ORT – the equipment it has provided us through Kadima Mada has changed the atmosphere in class completely. The Interactive Whiteboard helps me as a teacher and it brings the students closer to us. they are so interested; they are glued to the computers and we use them to enhance our lessons. There’s added value in science; it’s much easier, for example, to explain certain scientific concepts now thanks to video and other materials we can prepare ourselves or find on the Internet.” Students were particularly excited by the presence of an alumnus, Randa Abbas, who recently completed a PhD at Hebrew University on polymeric devices for the treatment of abdominal aortic aneurysm. “The Science Day concept of encouraging students in science is very good. It would be my pleasure to be a role model for the students there – especially the girls – to show them what they can achieve,” Dr Abbas said. “The children seemed really interested in my research; I hope it encourages them to proceed with science.” The scientific festivities in Kfar Kana are not over, however. Now, the high school participants are planning how to replicate their activiities for a younger audience at the town’s elementary school. At the nearby town of Abu Snan, the focus of study was water – its properties, analysis and uses. And Makif Abu Snan welcomed its own high achieving alumnus, Professor Ashraf Brik. Professor Brik, winner of last year’s Israel Chemical Society prize for Outstanding Young Chemist, heads the Brik Research Group at Ben Gurion University. He gave a lecture on the importance of science and technology and the connection between them. The Ministry of Education’s theme of healthy lifestyles was an appropriate focus for hospitalised children who took part in Science Day activities at their hospitals’ education centres, which are supported by World ORT’s SASA Setton Kav Or programme. The programme provides equipment, distance learning and other educational support for sick children so that they can keep up with their schoolwork and provide a positive distraction from their condition and treatment. Ofra Aber-Jal, Principal of the education centre at Hillel Yaffe Hospital in Hadera, thanked World ORT for the scientific equipment it had provided for the day and for allowing children who were visiting sick friends on the day to participate in the activities. “The activities were interactive, versatile, challenging and very appropriate for the children,” she said. “The students were interested in what was taught and undertook experiments to investigate and understand processes underlying everyday phenomena.” At Meir Medical Centre in Kfar Saba, Israel’s seventh largest hospital complex, the entire education centre was turned into a laboratory with children and teacher dressed as scientists. They learn ed about the diverse qualities of substances and built models of molecules, learned about Albert Einstein, and delved into the exciting subjects of vulcanology and astronomy. While children at Israel’s only paediatric adolescent centre, Alyn Woldenberg Family Hospital in Jerusalem, enjoyed activities spread over four days culminating in a Science Day which explored the role of sport in a health lifestyle. And children at Assaf Harofeh Medical Centre, near Tel Aviv, learned how different substances combined to make useful compounds. “I made perfume that’s very tasty [sic]; it has a good smell and I will bring it to my mother as a gift,” said four-year-old Eitan. While Noa, aged seven, “mixed powder with a substance like glue and made toothpaste. Now I feel very happy and I want to go home and brush my teeth with it.”