Nature and Nurture

Lotem- Chana on left, Sari on rightBy: Chana Silver and Sari Shtainmas

At the beginning of the school year, we were asked to participate in a project run by LOTEM, which would partner the eighth grade class from the Tali Beit Chinuch School in Jerusalem with a class of students with developmental disabilities from the Ben Yehuda School. The goal was to use nature outings to create a connection between the kids. We jumped at the opportunity! We both believe in the full inclusion of children with disabilities with their “regular” peers and this program was a way to begin that process.

At the outset, the Tali students participated in three preparatory sessions with the “A Place For All” organization and LOTEM. The sessions engaged the students and were extremely vital in helping them understand the students they would be meeting and working in tandem with. The sessions reduced their tension and addressed their concerns in advance.

The first meeting of the two classes took place at the Ben Yehuda School. The students felt that they were able to connect with each other, even though they had never met. This was a very positive and encouraging sign. The meeting dispelled many pre-conceived notions and our students were excited to work with their partners on creating a nature outing that everyone could enjoy.

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Last week, Lotem staff prepare to take a group of children with disabilities on a nature hike

The students planned together all aspects of the “tiyul” (trip) they would be going on. Food preparation, what activities they would do and an end of program happening were jointly arranged. As each meeting progressed, the students felt more at ease with each other and they were able to see past the differences and focus instead on what they shared in common.

A nature hike and outing allowed the students to leave the framework of school and simply enjoy a fun day with their peers. The ability to see others in a different light, to interact with everyone and treat others as you would want others to treat you- these are the lessons our students learned.

The entire experience was very empowering and a great learning experience for our students- one which will stay with them for a long time.

Chana Silver is a teacher at the Tali Beit Chinuch School in Jerusalem and Sari Shtainmas teaches at the Ben Yehuda School in Jerusalem. Their classes participated in the Lotem Natural Integration Program. The Ruderman Family Foundation was a proud partner in this program. Lotem- making nature accessible- recently celebrated its 20th birthday. Congratulations!

Read our last post: The Way He Is, by Jo Ann Simons

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