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Visrael: Innovation in Israel Education through Video

12/5/14

By Amy Schilit Benarroch & Noa Mofaz with an introduction by Suri Jacknis

Hi, everyone. As facilitator of some Coalition Peer Groups, I have been working with the Long Island Family Learning Network to explore ways that we can connect our families to the Israel of today. Network participants have shared stories of a great “disconnect with Israel” among their constituent families and have been searching for new ways to go beyond associations of danger, war and violence or camels, desert and pioneers to make modern Israel accessible, relevant and real to this generation. I am fortunate to have gotten to know Amy Schilit Benarroch, one of the two partners in the Visrael project, through her participation in one of our other Coalition Networks for Full Time educators. Amy is a very thoughtful and creative educator with a special passion for Israel. When she shared this special project with me, I knew that it is something so needed and valuable. Please feel free to reach out to Amy or Noa for more information and to let us know your reactions and suggestions. -Suri Jacknis

It’s hard to talk to American kids about Israel. Recently, American children hear about Israel through the lens of the news, through violence and tragedy. Death and war cannot be the only story about Israel. We have to do a better job to teach children about the Israel many of us know and love. To our children, the story of Israel should of music and food and entrepreneurship and kibbutzim living and more.

So we developed Visrael, a video-based curriculum to teach Israel to 21st century learners here in America. As an Israeli video artist and an American Jewish educator, we knew there were opportunities to innovate in the way children learn about Israel. Our program features a mix of stop-motion animation and live action documentary to create positive connections with Israel for children living in the diaspora. mm

Fifteen years ago, Dr. Avraham Kadar, changed learning in public schools by producing short videos on a variety of topics through his program, BrainPOP. Inspired by BrainPop, which is used in tens of thousands of public and private schools across the country, we set out to create a “Jewish version.” Our goals are to revolutionize the way Israel is taught in day schools, congregations, camps and homes.

Not only do children love to watch videos in class, but research also shows that animation and narration enhance comprehension and memory. According to an SEG Research report funded by BrainPop, “Multimedia learning is most effective when the learner can apply their newly acquired knowledge and receive feedback.” In that spirit, we’ve also created tools for educators including teacher’s manual, worksheets, creative activities and flashcards.

In classrooms and congregations, teachers can integrate Visrael into formal units that focus on Israel. For families, it can be used as a tool for children to learn about Israel with their parents. And at camps, Visrael can serve as a unique, informal way to inspire and assist all Israel-focused activities. Daphna and Gilad

Building Visrael has been an exciting journey thus far. We have just begun to scratch the surface in sharing this innovative programming with American students. We hope you’ll take this journey with us. Please visit visraelschool.com for more information and to get in touch with us. Bahai Garden

Noa Mofaz and Amy Schilit Benarroch are co-directors of Visrael, a video-based Israel education curriculum for students living in the diaspora. Noa is an Israeli-based video artist and Amy is a NYC-based Jewish educator.

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