When I think of innovation, I think of high-tech companies or some small start up. I didn’t expect to find an innovation hub on a kibbutz that was founded in the 1920’s.
This summer, I spent a day with a trim, well-tanned 72 year old artist, educator, and Six-Day War hero named Avital Geva. You might have heard of Avital Geva from Yossi Klein Halevy’s book “Like Dreamers.” He is one of the seven members of the 55th Paratroopers Reserve Brigade that fought to liberate Jerusalem in June, 1967. Halevy describes the evolution of Geva’s political views in the aftermath of the Six-Day War.
In 1977 Avital Geva built a greenhouse the size of a large warehouse on his Hashomer Hatzair Kibbutz Ein Shemer, near Haifa. It is filled with fish ponds and lily pads, plant nurseries and scientific equipment, a massive rain machine and hundreds of bubbling pop bottles filled with algae. This greenhouse was the first place in Israel that figured out how to grow vegetables on recycled water (the first hydroponic system in Israel) and the first to grow vegetables in planters filled with lava culled from extinct volcanoes in the Golan Heights.
Geva built the greenhouse originally to stimulate high school students to experiment on ecological projects because “Israel’s future depends on raising young people able to deal creatively with earth, wind, water.” As he says, “I take a little agriculture, a little ecology, a little education and mix it with coffee; students learn by doing.”
For the past four plus decades he has been bringing Muslims and Jews, Ethiopian kids who are challenged with the regular framework of school and American students from High Tech High in San Diego and from the Far East to learn, discover, invent, innovate, and experiment. As well, researchers from the Weizmann Institute of Science and the Technion, teachers from local schools and those abroad come to teach or conduct their own scientific research. The magic happens when these naturally curious kids are paired with these high-tech entrepreneurs and scientists.
I saw a new aeroponics unit built by an MIT student.
I heard about the work of a group of high school students who had worked with a big leafy plant from South America where they are proposing that the water-repellent leaves might be the idea for roofing material for people in rural settings.
Avital Geva tells me that he tries to give students “meaningful moments of education.” I saw how he does this. He created the Start-up Greenhouse in the Start-up Nation.
This week, I shared my experiences from my visit to Ein Shemer with our faculty. We hold a similar aspiration with Avital Geva: to stimulate students to develop their curiosity, creativity, and ability to think differently and create “meaningful moments of education.”
That’s our charge at TanenbaumCHAT for this year and every year. We hope every day is filled with meaningful moments of education.
(For those who’d like to see a short video, narrated in Hebrew, about the Greenhouse, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xuO-c_yuJj0.)