In Gaza Preschools, Kitchens Become Science Labs for Active Learning
In Gaza’s impoverished communities, schools rarely come equipped with necessities like libraries and science labs. So with fewer resources available, some teachers are getting creative in the classroom.
Take, for example, the children of Gaza’s YMCA preschool. They have turned their kitchen into a science lab. Through fun activities, they are learning concepts like weight, volume, color, relationships between objects, and the transformation of substances.
“Today we’re making fruit salad,” said teacher Ghada Hashwa. “Children are taking part in making healthy meals as part of an active learning initiative.”
Recently Ghada joined ANERA’s teacher training workshop, funded by Dubai Cares. She was one of 48 other teachers from nine preschools enrolled in the active learning program. The new method of teaching breaks the rigid routine of conventional learning.
Today’s activity at the YMCA uses the fun and delicious activity of making fruit salad. The first part of the session required students to identify different “mystery” fruits by reaching into a bag. Then they named the fruits and learned how to change their form—by making juice, or chopping them up into slices. Teacher Ghada ensures the safety of tools used for experimenting, as well as food cleanliness.
One student, Sarah, squeezed an orange through a juicer and poured it onto her healthy finished product, a fruit salad. “It’s like a rainbow,” she said giddily, jumping up and down.
Active Learning is an Essential Part of Early Childhood Education
Through active learning projects, children learn life skills through practice, experimentation, trial and error. “Traditional education does not allow any of this,” said Ghada. “Children are passive learners and receivers in the conventional classroom.” During an activity, Ghada can observe the children’s interaction and how they handle different challenges. “The kids follow the recipe, and if they face any problems, they need to figure out how to resolve it on their own.”
When children participate in preparing food, they develop skills like language, science, math and art. Learning is enriched with the vibrant colors of fruit, and the healthy content of their meals.
“In the kitchen, the students use all of their senses to learn,” said another teacher, Najla El Jadba. “They won’t forget what they did because it will be carved into their minds.”
Gaza Preschools Renovation Allow for Active Learning
Both children and teachers are motivated to learn in a rich, safe and beautiful environment. Unfortunately, they did not always have access to high quality facilities. Before ANERA rehabilitated the preschool, it was a grey and gloomy space. Now kids are inspired to learn and explore in their classrooms and playground, painted in vibrant colors.
The renovation took place as part of ANERA’s ongoing early childhood development program in Palestine. ANERA painted all the rooms in bright colors and made upgrades to the bathrooms. Cracks in the walls were filled in and a new child-size water fountain was installed. The outdoor play areas got new green turf and a sunroof to protect children from the scorching sun. New playground equipment was also provided.
“The old playground was unsafe, with old, decaying tiles for floors,” said the preschool director Mona Tarazi. “The unshaded play area was a struggle during winter and summer. The toilets leaked sewage.” Mona smiles describing the changes. “We need to offer children in Gaza a healthy beginning from a young age. How lovely to set them up for a brighter, healthy future.”
With funding from Dubai Cares, ANERA was able to transform nine preschools throughout Gaza. In addition, the project involved training 48 teachers on basic child rights and protection and distributing reading bags and other educational resources to optimize teacher competency. Full-scale school renovations included equipping the facilities with new furniture to create child friendly spaces that are conducive to learning.