“Growing Together” is a joint program for Arabs and Jews at the Ecological Greenhouse, located in Kibbutz Ein-Shemer. The program creates encounters between young individuals from different sectors in Israeli society – strengthening mutual understanding and openness, through shared experiences and exploration of science, ecology and agriculture. During the 2014 school year, the Eco-Greenhouse initiated the program with a team of sixteen 6th graders, who arrived from four schools in the Menashe Region: A-Shafi, Al-Khawarizme (Bakah Al-Garbiye), Reut and Katzir (Menashe region).
The Goal – Water Treatment:
Throughout the project, which lasted three months, the students worked in teams of 4 (2 students from Arab communities and 2 from Jewish communities), and explored shared challenges: treatment of sewage water that arrives from barns, to allow for reuse in agriculture.
The joint educational program began with a tour of the Ein-Shemer cowsheds, for gaining an appreciation of the field first hand. After studying the fundamentals of the field, including: basic terms, measurement techniques, working in the lab, and the stages for building an experiment – the students split up into groups, and began to plan their experiment process. The students took water from the Ein Shemer cowshed, and prepared comparative experiments for treatment of the water:
1) By using plants that consume ammonia (such as Pistia and Lamina)
2) Treatment through oxygen consuming bacteria.
The students measured nitrate levels, created aggregated data and graphs, and presented their findings before an audience. The project summary was presented at the Eco-Greenhouse exhibition before school principals and parents. The project was guided by Dr. Ilana Iron, Ruan Biadasa, and Itamar Avishai, from the Eco-Greenhouse educational team.
During the program, special emphasis was placed on the following themes:
Social skills: team work, cooperation, collaboration, and bridging language gaps.
Experimentation skills: planning and implementation of experiments, chemical measurements of water quality, recording data, analysis of data, presenting scientific findings before audiences (parents, teachers, guests), building with wood, using recycled materials and creating a presentation poster.
Terms and concepts: sustainability, the human impact on the environment, water contamination, natural water cycles, nitrates (nitrification), biological indicators for water quality, water treatment facilities, treatment of water with bacteria, water treatments through plants, as well as terms relating to scientific processes, and experiments – controls, repetition, singling out variables, and data presentation.