On a recent Monday morning at Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Monmouth County, a visitor from Israel drew a map of the country on an electronic SmartBoard.
“What do people do that is good for our environment?” asked the visitor, Carmi Wisemon, executive director of Sviva Israel, an organization connecting Israelis and communities abroad through environmental education.
“Throw away their trash,” said one of the seventh- and eighth-graders.
“Recycle,” said another.
“What do people do that is bad for our environment?” Wisemon asked. “Litter,” “drive,” and “take long showers,” were some of the replies.
The Marlboro Schechter is one of three area schools taking part in Sviva Israel’s Eco Connection program. It gives students in both countries opportunities to explore global environmental issues from a Jewish, Israeli, and Zionistic perspective.
Three hundred students from six schools in Israel — five in Arad and one at Kibbutz Ein Gedi — are also taking part.
Student representatives from each school communicate electronically via a blog in both Hebrew and English (www.svivaisrael.org).
The local schools — including Solomon Schechter Academy of Ocean and Monmouth Counties in Howell and the religious school of Temple Beth Miriam in Elberon — are linked through the Jewish Federation of Monmouth County, which has a sister-community relationship with Israel’s Arad-Tamar region through the Jewish Agency for Israel’s Partnership 2000 NJ-Delaware Cluster.
Some 100-150 students from the six schools in the NJ-Delaware partnership are taking part.
Students on both sides of the ocean will measure their ecological footprint, learn ways to “reduce, reuse, and recycle,” and create a class project for environmental action.
The Marlboro Schechter students expressed enthusiasm for the project, which will culminate with a trip to Israel in the spring.
“I’m looking forward to doing it,” said eighth-grader Adi Yarhi. “I also think it’s cool how so many schools…want to help the environment.”
“And even across nationalities,” added eighth-grader Alex Grundwerg. “I’m also looking forward to doing it because I really haven’t had that much contact with anyone from Israel.”
“It brings more of Israel to our school,” said Mati David, a Judaic studies coordinator and Hebrew teacher at the school.
Beth Miriam educators are also enthusiastic about the program. We “look forward not only to learning about our ecological footprint and how it relates to Judaism, but we are also very excited to share our findings with students in the Arad-Tamar region who are doing the same thing,” educational director Stella Stanway wrote NJJN in an e-mail.
The Schechter school in Howell participated last year as well, and its previous program — using “Sponge Bob” characters to teach children about electricity — will be shared with all the other schools, Wisemon said. After having trained 15 teachers over the course of his two-week visit to the United States, Wisemon added, “We’re full-steam ahead.”