Education Is The Name Of The Game

By Ion Braun January 26, 2011 Comments

Children don’t often associate the words “school” and “playground”, but that’s just what an Israeli principal has succeeded to do: Reviving his school by ditching conventional teaching methods in favor of a more “entertaining” one.

In Haifa’s Ein Hayam primary school, the students’ learning experience is based wholly on games. “It’s like an intellectual playground,” Baruch Yaakobi, the school’s principal, told NoCamels.

The children, aged 6 to 13, “play” mathematics, literature, reading and history in the schools’ game playing arenas. There they learn about politics and history by dressing up and acting the stories or learn to multiply during treasure hunts or trivia games.

“When the children are in the yard they learn in a sphere beyond the constricted boundaries of the classrooms,” explained the principal.

The school was established in 1962, but with declining enrollment, it decided, along with Israel’s Ministry of Education in 2005, to become an “experimental” institution. And according to Yaacobi, Ein Hayam’s principal for over ten years, it has been a success.

“We need games in order to teach, it’s the one to transmit all the necessary knowledge while grabbing the children’s attention,” Yaacobi added.

The principal drew upon the ideas of Plato, Einstein and Freud to support his vision: “They all believed that playing is essential both to the child’s development and well-being.” The goal is not to focus on the logical and technical aspects of the game, but rather to “focus on the state of mind”.

The school’s method – the first of its kind in Israel – also includes the participation of any influential person in the students’ lives. “We sometimes ask from the parents to come and play with their children and to be a part of the whole concept of transforming their personalities.”

Yaakobi admits the method was a hard sell for parents at first, but says most have become avid supporters of the technique. The principal asked parents to “free themselves from any boundaries, remove themselves from anything that is taken for a fact.” Because, “at their core, that’s how children are.”

Hoping to demonstrate the positive results of his method, Yaacobi has turned the school into an “observation center,” where both teachers and academics can come to see the unconventional learning method in action.

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