This is just one in a series of ongoing posts on the educational innovations in Israel. You can see additional coverage here.
In America, this week marks a holiday break. How are the young people in your life spending their time? Some adults lament the activities of, “Kids today.” They are staring at screens using social media. They are playing games. They are watching TV. But the outlook shouldn’t be so bleak. If students are not doing wonderful things, we shouldn’t blame kids, we should look at the opportunities adults are providing to them. What if there was an opportunity in your community for youth to spend free time in meaningful ways with other youth?
In Israel, there is.
During my #VibeEdu Innovation in Education Tour organized by Vibe Israel, I discovered that young people across the country dedicate their time to an activity that provides meaning and purpose to their lives. Students there join “Youth Movements.”
In America, it is not unusual for students to partake in after school activities. These activities are generally focused on personal improvement. Do better on tests or in a particular subject. Play on a sport team or learn to play an instrument.
Youth movements are different.
Youth Movements allow young people to see a world bigger than themselves. Each youth movement has its own philosophy (political and/or religious) and students generally begin attending in fourth grade. Former Education Minister Gidon Sa’ar, who established a "Youth Movement Week" while in the role, says that “The activities in the youth movements turn the children into more caring and considerate individuals. Participation in a youth movement intensifies the contribution to society and reduces the effects of violence." He explained that the more members of youth movements, the more ethical and less violent society will be.
|The four students on the left of this photo explained how they help youth in|
their city of Yeruham connect with a Youth Movement that resonates with them.
They also work to remove barriers to joining a movement such as poverty or transportation.
Youth movements are also a strategy to get students out of their homes where they may just be watching television or playing video games and into an environment where they can join other youth to lead, to guide, and to improve community. Israeli adults I spoke with shared that they forged some of their most significant friendships and experiences in the youth movements of their childhood. There was a group cohesion and a sense of camaraderie among its members to unite for a greater good.
Youth movements provide an opportunity for teenagers to put their feelings and ideals into action; to make an impact on the world around them, by helping others and by building their land; and, not least in importance, to form connections with other young persons around the globe whose ideals match or complement their own.
If you live outside Israel, chances are there is not a youth movement for a teen to join where you live, but does there really have to be? As Angela Maiers asks in her #Choose2Matter movement, just ask a kid what breaks there heart. I say, ask a kid what in the world makes them mad. When they have the answer to either question, the next step is to figure out how to begin changing that thing and bring your peers along. Next thing you know, you've got a movement!
Interested in learning more about Vibe Israel’s #VibeEdu Tour? Check out the tour site here or follow their work at:
Photo credit: Amit Shemesh - www.amitshemesh.com