Science & Environment Fair in Kiryat Shmona’s Golden Park

Students from fourteen schools gathered in Kiryat Shmona’s Golden Park, which was established thanks to donations from Friends of KKL-JNF in Calgary, Canada.

September 26, 2010 12:46

KKL. (photo credit: KKL)

How can we teach the younger generation to conserve the planet? A science and environment fair held in Kiryat Shmona brought 1,500 children from the town and neighboring Upper Galilee communities face to face with this vital issue by involving them in activities related to the conservation of water sources and the reduction of greenhouse gases.

Students from fourteen schools gathered in Kiryat Shmona’s Golden Park, which was established thanks to donations from Friends of KKL-JNF in Calgary, Canada. The youngsters took part in a variety of events at the various activity stations, which presented different aspects of the environmental issue – from domestic composting to the use of solar energy to boil a pot of rice. KKL-JNF presided over some of these activity centers, while others were provided by the Upper Galilee Regional Council, the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel and a number of other nature and environmental organizations. The youngsters also got the chance to watch a performance by the Green Circus, which uses entertainment to convey environmental messages. The fair was initiated by the Galilee Science Education Center, which operates within the framework of the Migal environmental research institute (i.e., the Upper Galilee Center for Knowledge), with KKL-JNF and the Ministry for Environmental Protection as two of its principal partners in organizing the venture.

Itai Malek, Educational Projects Coordinator at the Galilee Science Education Center, believes that games and memorable experiences are the best way to convey a message to young people. “The idea is to make ‘reduction of greenhouse gas emissions’ something that every child can understand, identify with and take part in. We believe that if every one of us makes a small change, together we can make a big difference.”

The great tit and the pine processionary moth
One of KKL-JNF’s most popular activity stations dealt with the role of the great tit in biological pest control. The students listened as experts explained how this tiny songbird eats the caterpillars of the pine processionary moth, which are harmful to both trees and human beings. Each class also received a nesting box, where great tits could nest and rear a new generation of fledglings that would prevent the moths from spreading.

Pine processionary moth caterpillars are covered in poisonous hairs that irritate the skin and eyes and can cause breathing difficulties, and because of this it is best to ensure that it is not found in areas frequented by children. Obviously, it is best to try to do this without recourse to dangerous pesticides – and this is where the great tit comes into the picture, as this moth is one of its favorite snacks.

The nesting boxes were made by Jewish youngsters from all over the world, who had come to Israel with the Taglit-Birthright program. Every youngster who makes a box is told who receives it and where it is installed, so that he or she can keep in touch and receive updates. This unique combination of ecology, Zionism and concern for nature symbolizes some of the main principles that underlie KKL-JNF’s activities.

Inbar Rubin, Director of Guiding and Content at Lake Hula, was in charge of this particular activity station. Her objective, she said, is to explain biological methods of pest control to the children and try to get them involved within a shared classroom framework.

When asked how it was possible to ensure that great tits – rather than sparrows, for example – would nest in the boxes, Rubin explained that the small entrance prevents other species from getting in, nor can bigger birds enlarge the entrance, as the box is made from thick tough wood. All that needs to be done is to hang the box on a tree at a height of about two meters off the ground and wait for a happy young couple of great tits to come along and take possession.

Shaked Ben-Shlush a fifth-grader from Kibbutz Yiron, relates his experience of this activity station: “We learned that there are birds that can help us, because they eat the pests. And at school, of course, we’ll hang up the nesting box we got.”

Itai Tubiani, from Hatzor HaGlilit, who is also in fifth grade, added: “I used to think that if you wanted to get rid of pests you had to spray them with poison. Today I learned that there are other methods that are better for the environment.”

Brown - Blue - Green   
Another KKL-JNF activity station displayed the organization’s three colors and explained their significance: green = trees, blue = water and brown = earth. “The children played games and took part in quizzes and competitions, all designed to demonstrate KKL-JNF’s work in these different areas,” explained Liraz Kabra, who was in charge of the station.

At the carbonometer station KKL-JNF instructors told the children how the greenhouse effect operates: gases emitted by the activities of the Earth’s inhabitants – mainly carbon dioxide – accumulate in the atmosphere and prevent heat from escaping, causing temperatures to rise. One of the children remarked, laughing, “Now I know why it’s so hot today.”

A KKL-JNF fire truck purchased with donations from Hadassah women, Friends of KKL-JNF in the USA, was stationed in the park throughout the event, to raise participants’ awareness of the battle against forest fires. Fire trucks like these are an important part of KKL-JNF’s defenses against forest fires, and they played a very significant role in putting out the widespread fires that raged this past summer and destroyed 800,000 trees.

Regional KKL-JNF Director Aviram Tzuk told those present that the environmental issue is occupying an ever more prominent position, not only in research and activities in the field, but also in educational initiatives designed to raise public awareness.

Kiryat Shmona’s Mayor Nissim Malka welcomed those taking part in the event. “For getting in touch with nature, no season is more appropriate than Succoth,” he said. “This is the time of year when we leave the house and move into the succa, taking the four species with us. Migal, the Ministry for Environmental Protection and KKL-JNF are working magnificently together to show us the right way to conserve the environment.”

Roi Simcha, a senior environmental education coordinator in the Ministry for Environmental Protection’s northern region, emphasized the importance of public awareness, and said that he viewed children as the agents of change, as they could influence their parents’ behavior. Of the collaboration with KKL-JNF he said, “KKL-JNF is in the forefront as far as the promotion of sustainability is concerned, and would appear to be the leading organization on this issue. It accommodates well to both international attitudes and local activities.”

KKL-JNF established Kiryat Shmona’s Golden Park, where the fair was held, with the help of donations raised at a Negev Dinner by Canada’s Calgary community. The park comprises extensive lawns, picnic sites, family recreation areas and a hiking trail through dense thickets of vegetation. Local residents are engaged in a struggle to prevent continued pumping from Ein HaZahav (“The Golden Spring”), which rises in Kiryat Shmona, and whose waters they would like to see flowing through the park once more.

In the afternoons there were activities for high school and junior high science students and for the general public, too, in the pedestrian mall in the town’s industrial area. Topics covered included water, climate change and general science, and some two thousand people took part. Apart from KKL-JNF’s activity stations, there were tours of the Migal Institute’s research laboratories, games, lectures, workshops, opportunities to observe flora and fauna and activities that helped the participants to understand the laws of physics.

The fair was held as part of the European Union’s “Researchers’ Night” project, which is designed to bring the general public closer to the research community, present new research and promote interest in the various scientific issues. On Researchers’ Night research institutes and science museums are thrown open to the general public, who can visit them free of charge. This event is held throughout Europe, and Israel is participating for the fifth time.

One of the most remarkable workshops was conducted by Dudu Ashkenazi, from KKL-JNF's Youth and Education Division. The topic was “The Ecological Footprint,” i.e., the extent to which humankind influences the environment, as measured in units of area. According to Ashkenazi, if we continue to overuse the world’s resources, by 2060 the planet will no longer be able to sustain the volume of life in our world. He compared the situation to that of a bank at which we have an ever-increasing overdraft.    
If the entire population of the world lived as people do in the US, we would require five worlds to sustain life, he said. If everyone lived as we do in Israel, we would need three worlds. If we take the average standard of living over all countries, a world and a half would suffice.

Ashkenazi concluded on an optimistic note, as he declared that it was not too late to save the situation by bringing the environmental system into ecological equilibrium, without damaging its components – a development that would meet the needs of the present generation without adversely affecting the ability of future generations to satisfy their own requirements.

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