Robots and Rockets to the Rescue

Two recent articles put out by World ORT (a UJC/Federation-funded agency) have interesting stories about efforts to cope with the physical and psychological damage from Palestinian attacks on Israeli kids living in the Gaza perimeter region.

First is 'Robots get children out of their hospital beds' which isn't quite as cool as it sounds (I read that headline and pictured huge Jewish robots giving kids piggyback rides from hospital rooms back out to the soccer fields and schools) but is still a nice idea. Here's an excerpt:

While regular schools were closed for safety reasons – the education centre at the Soroka University Medical Centre was busier than ever. In addition to the children undergoing treatment at the 1,000-bed teaching hospital, the education centre was catering to the children of medical staff who did not want to leave their children at home unattended.

Last week, World ORT staff personally delivered 10 educational Lego kits suitable for children aged six to 16 to the education centre on Soroka’s children’s ward: crocodiles which snap and roar, wind-driven sailing boats on wheels and programmable robots which move in every direction were demonstrated to the children who later used them themselves. World ORT will organise appropriate training for the hospital’s teachers enabling them to use the equipment with the children.

“This is great,” said one of the kids, Shira, aged 11. “I can’t believe that this is considered a school lesson… We have this crocodile kit at home but we couldn’t get it to move after we had built it. Even my grandfather couldn’t work it out. I am looking forward to learning how to do it so that I can show my family when I get well and leave here.”

Esther Friedman, the Director of Soroka's Education Centre, said: "The most important issue for us is that sick children will be persuaded to get out of bed every day – even for a short time. This is essential for their emotional well-being and for a speedy recovery. This equipment is bright, colourful and attractive. It is not only educational; it is also fun and simple for the children to use. Thanks to World ORT, it will be much easier to persuade children to make the attempt to get up and attend the Educational Centre, now that we have these wonderful kits."

A second article, 'Returning to routine is rocket science,' talks about the difficulties kids have had in returning to a trio of ORT-supported schools near Gaza, even now that they've re-opened during the ceasefire. It highlights an interesting attempt to use the Palestinian rockets as a learning tool in science class. Here's an excerpt:

Students and teachers at the high school in Sha’ar HaNegev , which is about a mile from Gaza and a frequent target of Palestinian rockets, have welcomed the ceasefire but acknowledge that an end to the rocket attacks does not immediately bring peace of mind.

“Every time we hear a bang we’re scared,” said Lihi Va’anunu, 17, a final year student at Sha’ar HaNegev.

Sha’ar HaNegev, with many classrooms reinforced due to years of rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip just two kilometres away, partially re-opened last week, before the ceasefire and Lihi had not been thrilled by the prospect.

“I’m not really happy that school is re-opening; it’s not safe, it’s scary,” she said at the time. “But we have to go because we’ve missed a lot so we have to study. I want to be at home with my family – when I’m at school I don’t know what’s happening with them.”

However, now, she says, the ceasefire means she feels safe – despite the effect loud noises still have on her and her friends’ nerves.

“It feels good to be back at school but we have a lot of work to do to catch up. Our bagrut (matriculation) exams are next week so we’re also having to study at home a lot. I hope it’s going to be okay. We have been given 10 bonus points by the government so that will help,” Lihi said.


However, Mrs Sharvit has managed to turn Hamas’s war crimes into a fun-filled physics lesson.

“As a physics teacher I have harnessed the children’s interest and anxiety into learning about the mechanics of rockets,” she said. “They want to know about the different types of missiles, their various capabilities and how they work. It reassured them to know the details of what missiles can do – and what they can’t. Psychologically it helped because by understanding the physics of rockets these weapons lost some of their threatening mystery. And I used Looney Tunes cartoons of Wile E. Coyote using rockets to try to catch Road Runner to illustrate what I was teaching. It was a really good lesson.”

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