18 March 2009 Rothschild Prize for Shaar HaNegev High School teacher The World ORT Innovation Leader at Shaar HaNegev High School in Israel has won the prestigious Rothschild Education Prize for her implementation of thematic learning at the school. As World ORT Innovation Leader, Zohar Nir Levy, pictured, is the person who spearheads the full use of new technology which has been introduced to the school through World ORTs Kadima Mada programme. Ms Nir Levys thematic learning initiative has, according to Yad Hanadiv as the Rothschild Foundation is known in Israel, made strides to help children particularly the less academically gifted to make connections between different disciplines. Our whole programme is based on the smart board; everything goes through the Interactive White Board (IWB), Ms Nir Levy, a geography teacher, said. Its a wonderful tool. Inspired by the High Tech High charter schools in America, Ms Nir Levy and her colleagues designed their thematic learning programme last summer and introduced it to great effect to the 7th Grade at the start of the academic year. We take a subject and teach it from different angles. So, for example, we took as a theme Beginnings: in Bible we looked at creation, in geography we learned about the Big Bang, in science we studied the origin of life on Earth. Now were teaching Changes, examining climate change in geography, changes in material states in science, and developments in religion in Bible, she said. Another aspect of the thematic learning programme is for students to make projects, which can be big or small, and which sometimes transcend disciplines. The smart board is essential because I can show students my lesson and I can take lessons from other teachers and bring them into my class via the boards computer connectivity, she said. And the students themselves can show other aspects of what were studying by showing on the smart board what they have been taught in other classes. Were working hard so that the children can see the connection between the different things they are learning. The IWBs are also excellent for the teaching of learning strategies, in which students are shown how to deal with text, how to summarise it and compare content, how to ask questions and how to write their ideas in a clear way. We use the boards Internet connection to demonstrate things, using animation and short films. We can, for example, show the students a film and ask them to summarise it in their own words. We dont allow them to copy and paste from the Internet, she said. The smart boards which World ORT has introduced to schools through Kadima Mada have raised the level of education, Ms Nir Levy said. Its very hard work to think all the time how to use the smart board properly and in the best way so that the children and the teachers can profit from it. But in the end the level of teaching is some degrees higher than when we only had the regular black board, or stupid board as I call them now. Its awful after using the smart board to use a black board you dont know what to do with yourself! The Rothschild Education Prize is awarded annually in Israel in the memory of Max Rowe, a Chief Executive of the Rothschild Foundation and Founding President of the Open University of Israel. Worth $20,000, it has been customary in recent years to split the award between several deserving recipients. This year, Ms Nir Levy shares it with two teachers from other schools. Its great to receive this award, she said. Teachers dont get a lot of recognition in Israel, so this helps to compensate. To win the award, Ms Nir Levy underwent a gruelling interview with a panel of eight professors and other education professionals brought together by Yad Hanadiv. I didnt know who the panellists were or what their field of expertise was it was quite intimidating, she said. The Head of the World ORT Representative Office in Israel, Rony Kalinsky, congratulated Ms Nir Levy on her well deserved honour. Zohar is a unique person, Mr Kalinsky said. Shes very clever and she doesnt hold back her opinions. Im not surprised that she has won such an important award, shes a special teacher, very bright, with an independent spirit and the imagination and skill to make very good use of advanced technology.