Technoda Program Cultivates Future Israeli Scientists

August 22, 2013 9:01 am 1 comment

Israeli scientists are cultivated at young ages by Technoda, whose educational programming is pictured here. Photo: Technoda.

JNS.org – On the one hand, Givat Olga is an underprivileged neighborhood in the Israeli city of Hadera with about 12,000 people, primarily immigrants from Ethiopia, North Africa and the former Soviet Union. On the other, the neighborhood is home to the breeding ground for the next generation of science pioneers emerging from the “start-up nation.”

The decision to build Technoda—Israel’s National Museum of Science, Planning and Technology—in the unexpected location of Givat Olga brought educational resources to children who previously had limited access to them. Technoda got off the ground in 1986 with the support of the Rashi Foundation. One of Technoda’s founding fathers, Zion Bash, a senior engineer at Intel, helped develop an educational program with a focal point of enrichment in the sciences.

Twenty students took part in the first iteration of the Technoda program, which now provides more than 30,000 children per year with a hands-on science and general education. Students range from gan (pre-kindergarten) to high school.

“A small room has become a castle,” Dr. Gadi Mador, Technoda’s director, says in an interview with JNS.org.

“One of the basic elements for the future of Israel is to be, first and foremost, strong in science and technology,” he says. “Education is a journey that must start in kindergarten and continue throughout high school.”

Mador emphasizes that Technoda is the only place in Israel where all sectors of the population learn together under same roof—haredim and hilonim (religious and secular), Arabs andkibbutzniks, Christians, Jews, Muslims and Druze. The project’s goals, he says, are “first, to promote science and technology in Israel, and second, to bring together all elements of Israeli society on the common ground of science.”

A day at Technoda begins promptly at 8 a.m. Three morning programs are run simultaneously, with each geared to a specific age group. In the first section, the preschool class, even fairy tales become a vehicle for understanding science and technology.

“There is a special space for kids,” Mador says. “Technoda materials are integrated into the classroom topics. Material is provided to start the learning process in the school. Each ganprogram is two months long. Each of the five units per year culminates with a visit to [the] Technoda [museum].”

Technoda works with the Israeli Education Ministry to identify kids in the third grade who qualify to become part of its Gifted Program. The program continues through high school in an ongoing enrichment experience, both in science and general cultural education. Once a week, throughout the academic year, Technoda students study core scientific knowledge. As part of the high school curriculum, the young scientists visit high-tech companies.

“Seeing companies at work helps encourage work values,” Mador says.

The Technoda program goes beyond science. As part of their agenda, students have an opportunity to give back to the community. For example, they volunteer to work with children with disabilities.

“It’s not easy, but they enjoy working with these kids,” Mador says. “It’s an opportunity to help someone and give back.”

While the formal science and general education programs take place in the morning, afternoons at Technoda take on a more local flavor. The museum portion becomes a “home away from home to 400 children from Givat Olga,” Mador says.

Israeli children often grow up in the same towns as where their parents were raised, a situation that is true for many of the children in Givat Olga, according to Mador.

“We take them to another life, providing a hot meal, homework programs and an opportunity to participate in science and technology,” he says.

Technoda “cannot be just a museum—otherwise there is no support of children in Givat Olga,” Mador adds.

A results-oriented initiative, Technoda measures everything “from the point of view of both quantity and quality,” revealing what Mador calls “a real correlation between the rates of success [of Givat Olga children] and having this sort of opportunity.”

“There is a special group for potentially gifted children in the local community,” Mador says. “We recognize their potential.”

Mador came to Technoda in 1991 as a graduate student in physics and math. One of his professors asked him to come to Givat Olga to teach, and he has never left. His initial years with the project came during the first Palestinian intifada.

“It was quite amazing,” Mador recalls. “Outside, buses were blowing up. At the same time, in the classroom, Arab and Jewish students studied together in completely ordinary ways and learned together. Science and technology is the environment for the future: If you give children the opportunity to be together, it’s a great opportunity for them to simply live together.”

Among the first 20 students at Technoda was Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Capt. Yaron Vivante, a Givat Olga child whose parents immigrated to Israel from Libya. “He was born into technology,” says Mador. “He was very successful in high school. When he joined the IDF, he was accepted to pilot training, and graduated as a navigator of F15s (a type of fighter jet). Everyone was extremely proud of Yaron.”

In August 1995, four birds crashed into the F15 in which Capt. Vivante was flying. The jet crashed, and both he and the pilot were killed. To honor his memory, Technoda has named its major competition for young inventors in his name.

Among the innovations being developed at Technoda, in cooperation with the IDF, is a medical simulator, similar in concept to the computerized aviation trainers used by student pilots. The medical simulator effectively creates a hospital for children—without the children.

Mador explains that before a hands-on program like Technoda, Israeli children “did not understand the need to integrate scientific phenomena and applications.”

“Now kids build models—for example, of a car—[and] learn to understand how it accelerates,” he says. “Here, everything is hands-on, not just theoretical. Much is about the discovery that once you learn the basics, you can then reach for the high level.”

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Book Reviews Commentary ‎Kosher Lust: Love is Not the Answer (REVIEW)

    ‎Kosher Lust: Love is Not the Answer (REVIEW)

    Kosher Lust, by Shmuley Boteach (Gefen Publishing House, 2014). You really do want to find something positive to say about Shmuley Boteach. He is a phenomenon; very bright, an articulate bundle of energy and self-promotion. Anyone who has the chutzpah to describe himself as “America’s Rabbi” deserves ten out of ten for effort. I believe that along with most Chabad alumni, official and unofficial, he does a lot of good and is a sort of national treasure. In this world [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Theater Hollywood’s Revisiting of Passover’s Exodus Story a Part of Throwback ‘Year of the Bible’

    Hollywood’s Revisiting of Passover’s Exodus Story a Part of Throwback ‘Year of the Bible’

    JNS.org – In a throwback to the golden age of cinema, Hollywood has declared 2014 the “Year of the Bible.” From Ridley Scott’s Exodus starring Christian Bale as Moses, to Russell Crowe playing Noah, Hollywood is gambling on new innovations in technology and star power to revisit some of the most popular stories ever told. “It’s definitely a throwback to the 1950s and early ’60s,” Dr. Stephen J. Whitfield, an American Studies professor at Brandeis University, told JNS.org. Starting with The [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada ‘Jewish Giant’ Headlines New York Jewish Museum Exhibit

    ‘Jewish Giant’ Headlines New York Jewish Museum Exhibit

    Eddie Carmel, dubbed “The Jewish Giant” by American photographer Diane Arbus, is the centerpiece of a new exhibit opening April 11 at The Jewish Museum in New York. Arbus met Carmel, who was billed “The World’s Tallest Man,” at Hubert’s Dime Museum and Flea Circus in 1959 but waited until 1970 to photograph him at his parents’ home in the Bronx, according to the museum. The son of immigrants from Tel Aviv, Carmel posed for Arbus with his head bowed to [...]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Disney Hit ‘Frozen’ Gets Passover Themed Makeover With ‘Chozen’ (VIDEO)

    Disney Hit ‘Frozen’ Gets Passover Themed Makeover With ‘Chozen’ (VIDEO)

    A Passover themed cover of hit songs Let It Go and Do You Want to Build a Snowman? from Disney’s Frozen has attracted tons of media buzz and a cool 65,ooo views on YouTube within days of going online. The work of Jewish a capella group Six13, the track is aptly named Chozen. We are celebrating “our freedom, our favorite festival, our fabulous fans, and aspiring Disney princesses everywhere” the group said. The Chozen music video tells the story of [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity Retreat Gives Young Artists New Platform to Engage With Jewish Ideas

    Retreat Gives Young Artists New Platform to Engage With Jewish Ideas

    JNS.org – Many young Jewish artists struggle to define who they are personally, artistically, and religiously. Against the backdrop of that struggle, the recent Asylum Arts International Jewish Artists Retreat provided a space for some 70 young Jewish artists to explore Jewish ideas, to build community and a culture of reciprocity, and to learn skills to assist their career development. “We are trying to encourage and excite people to engage in Jewish themes,” says Rebecca Guber, director of Asylum Arts. [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Literature Darren Aronofsky Adds Psychological Depth, Little Else to ‘Noah’

    Darren Aronofsky Adds Psychological Depth, Little Else to ‘Noah’

    JNS.org – Has the era of large-scale biblical epics returned? Not since “The Ten Commandments” has there been so much torrential water on the big screen (not counting weather-related disaster films such as “The Impossible”) than in “Noah,” the latest blockbuster from writer and director Darren Aronofsky. “Noah” takes the traditional tale and splices it in an eco-friendly and psychologically driven plot. After Adam and Eve got booted out of the Garden of Eden and after Cain killed Abel, mankind [...]

    Read more →
  • Food Israel Israeli Arab Microbiologist Wins on Israel’s ‘MasterChef’ Reality Show

    Israeli Arab Microbiologist Wins on Israel’s ‘MasterChef’ Reality Show

    JNS.org – An Israeli-Arab microbiologist and mother of three won the fourth season of Israel’s most popular reality TV show, “MasterChef.” Nof Atamna-Ismaeel, 32, who holds a PhD in microbiology and is from the Israeli-Arab town of Baqa al-Gharbiyye, described winning as the “the most exciting moment in her life.” She said she plans to use the prize money to open up an Arab-Jewish cooking school. MasterChef is a popular reality TV show that originated in the U.K. It is [...]

    Read more →
  • Europe Theater Play About Muslim Man Who Discovers His Parents Are Jewish Seeking Funds

    Play About Muslim Man Who Discovers His Parents Are Jewish Seeking Funds

    Jewish comedian and writer David Baddiel is seeking public support to help produce a musical based on his film about a British Muslim man who discovers his parents are Jewish. London’s Theatre Royal Stratford East is in development to premiere The Infidel in October, London’s Evening Standard reported on Wednesday. However, the theater needs another £55,000 on top of around £200,000 already raised in order to produce the show. Baddiel, 49, retained the stage rights to the story when he wrote the [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.