After a restful Shabbat on a kibbutz and a night being hosted at the Technion students’ homes, Sunday morning saw us back exploring Haifa, this time focused on community service activities. Our first stop was the Madatech, Israel’s National Museum of Science, Technology, and Space that also holds daycare classes for young children, to learn about some of their teaching initiatives. We discussed ways to engage children in science learning by participating in some examples ourselves. The first simple experiment we were involved in had us trying to figure out which of four clear bottles held water in it. (Answer: use sight, smell, and touch. One bottle was empty (sight), one had alcohol (smell), and one had oil (touch). Of course, as our instructor pointed out and as we saw later on that day, when the kids are dealing with substances that they don’t know they are not encouraged to use those methods for safety reasons.) We also had a chance to play around with some sand which we quickly discovered was hydrophobic, and let me just say that playing with hydrophobic sand and water is fantastic and an experience I would actively seek out to do again- it’s so weird scooping sand out of water and having it still be completely dry.
After that we were shown a water play-table based on the Haifa port, and despite the seemingly simple design it had many different educational and play modes. Tal (one of the Technion students) and I became a crane, working together to pull strings and connect our magnetic “hook” to the magnet on the cargo.
When that presentation was done we went upstairs to observe how they teach concepts like this to actual five and six year olds. They were doing an experiment with acids and bases, putting an indicator into four test tubes of clear liquid and seeing which color it turned (blue for base, green for water, yellow for weak acid and red for strong acid). We got to try it out before the kids got there, since we could only stay for the very beginning of their lesson. The man in charge of the class was absolutely fantastic. Despite the fact that he was speaking Hebrew I could tell exactly what he was doing and what he meant at every step of the process. He was patient and friendly, and it seemed like the kids actually listened to him and liked him, something I could appreciate since I worked for five years as an aide at my temple’s religious school.
Next we walked through the museum, exploring a space exhibit for a little while then cutting through a back door to head outside since we were starting to run short on time. In the courtyard between two buildings awaited us an amazing array of interactive exhibits such as a human yo-yo, a pendulum swing, an Archimedes screw, a variety of pulleys, a Bernoulli helicopter, and a giant lever that had a cage for people to sit in on one end and different ropes to pull down on the other. Once we had tested out the majority of the exhibits (the best being the human yo-yo and giant lever), we went back inside to a room focused on light experiments, and then it was time to go.
We had a quick lunch of hummus (our staple food for the trip) and then went to our next stop, the medical building for the Technion. We visited Hadas’s lab (another Technion student) and learned about the research they do there, which includes creating biological pacemakers (basically heart cells) out of stem cells gathered from hair. We could see one of these cells pulsing a bit when viewed through a microscope, which was pretty amazing.
We walked from the Technion medical center to the youth center where we were volunteering. Because the day was uncomfortably hot, especially for walking across the city (and I had unfortunately left most of my important hot weather stuff, like my hat, sunglasses, and water bottle back in the Hillel center by accident), Marissa had the brilliant idea to buy us all popsicles. That was probably the best and most well-timed popsicle I have had in a long time. We also had some boxes of popsicles to give out to the kids at the center at the end of our visit there. While at the youth center our job was simply to hang out with the kids and teach them some sports. Rather than go back out in the hot sun to play football, basketball, or baseball (none of which I’m particularly good at), I went to the building’s judo room with Elena and Anastasia to teach wrestling. I was hoping that my background in martial arts might come in handy. Even indoors it was still warm because the pipes to the air conditioning system had been stolen, presumably to be resold for the iron in them. We were in the downtown, less affluent section of Haifa, and the little things like that reminded us where we were and how different these kids’ lives were from our own. One boy stayed with the wrestling group for a while, learning a bunch of moves from Elena with the assistance of two of the staff members at the youth center, who seemed to have done something like it before in the army. All the kids were great, if a bit wild, and hopefully they had fun and got something out of our visit there.
The time came to say goodbye to some of our Technion friends; we were leaving Haifa and they couldn’t afford to miss any more classes than they already had. Luckily, some were able to stick with us for the next leg of our trip, a night in Jerusalem. We stopped by our hostel first, which had fantastically kitschy things painted on the walls. Then after a late dinner at Burgers Bar, we headed out for our midnight tour of the city.
-Laura Standley ’16
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