Achiya

Achiya, established in 1993, implements therapeutic responses to children’s learning challenges in mainstream Haredi schools throughout Israel. Achiya leads parents, educators—and entire communities—to seek early intervention to support healthy cognitive, social and emotional development.
Location: Bnei Brak
Year founded: 1993

Description

Achiya is opening the door to a more holistic approach to boy's education in Israel's Haredi schools. Traditionally, boys' schools have focused exclusively on reading and preparation for Talmudic studies. (Haredi girls' schools generally have a more open attitude to therapeutic and creative learning opportunities). Achiya is advancing game-changing programs to advance early intervention in heders and Talmudei Torah across the full spectrum of Israel's diverse ultra-Orthodox communities. Achiya programs identify learning challenges, nurture creative thinking and implement professional and therapeutic programs to enable boys to achieve their full potential. Achiya reaches out to school principals, conducts teacher training and encourages and guides parents and the Haredi community at large to to address learning challenges in boys’ preschool and elementary schools throughout Israel.

If there was once a sense of shame in acknowledging learning challenges and seeking professional help—Achiya is enabling growing numbers of Haredi families understand that it is a shame not to seek help.


Achiya's Creative Thinking Workshop for Mothers and Sons

About

Beginning in 2012, Achiya has introduced a Creative Thinking Program into Haredi elementary schools in Bnei Brak, Elad and Holon. The Creative Thinking Program, designed by Professor Gideon Carmi of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, introduces children to the world of nature and science through empirical experiments designed to appeal to young children. Children become acquainted with fundamental principles of science, which inspire their natural curiosity and nurture creative independent thinking. In addition to the classroom programs, Achiya has conducted eight-session Mother-and-Son workshops at Achiya headquarters in Bnei Brak. The subject of this proposal is a request for support for a Mother and Son Creative Thinking Workshop to be conducted in 2016-2017.

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What is the mission and purpose of this program?

Achiya’s mission is to introduce quality early learning experiences for Haredi boys (in kindergartens and elementary schools). The aim is to expand the horizons and nurture the creative thinking skills of young boys--and enable mothers to play a central role in this process. Programs that offer mother-son learning opportunities are rare in Haredi communities--and a mother-son program focused on creative thinking and exposure to science and nature is pathbreaking.

Achiya believes that the program will guide mothers in nurturing their children's intellectual and scientific curiosity, and enable Haredi mothers to take a lead role in expanding the horizons of their sons--and their daughters. Given that Haredi women are also in many instances educators in the Haredi school systems, the workshop will also build their capacities to encourage scientific learning in the community.

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Program Description

Achiya’s vision includes introducing quality early learning experiences for Haredi boys in kindergartens and elementary schools. To this end, Achiya initiated a pilot Creative Thinking Program into Haredi elementary schools in Bnei Brak, Elad and Holon. The Creative Thinking Program, designed by Professor Gideon Carmi of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, introduces children to the world of nature and science through empirical experiments designed to appeal to young children. Children become acquainted with fundamental principles of science, which inspire their natural curiosity and nurture creative independent thinking. The pilot has been introduced into Haredi classrooms beginning in 2012, and the initiative has also included eight-session Mother-and-Son workshops at Achiya headquarters in Bnei Brak. The subject of this proposal is a request for support for a Mother and Son Creative Thinking Workshop to be conducted in 2016-2017.


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Demonstrated Need

Achiya successfully engaged the target audience, the conservatively inclined Haredi community, to embrace a Creative Thinking Program in boys’ pre- schools and elementary schools in Bnei Brak, Elad and Holon.

There are few opportunities for Haredi children, especially boys, exposure to scientific thinking. Achiya's Creative Thinking Workshops (supported in its pilot stage by the Bernard Van Leer Fouondation), enabled a critical target audience, mothers of boys in preschools and elementary schools, to take the lead in stimulating children's curiosity to learn about the world around them. The mothers responded to the program with tremendous enthusiasm, attending and participating regularly, despite the demands of their large households. Over the long term, Achiya also plans to engage fathers in the program and it is anticipated that with the support of municipal educational authorities, the program may be introduced to both boys' and girls' Haredi classrooms.

From the perspective of the Israeli government's priority to advance the integration of Haredi men into the mainstream workforce, early exposure to scientific thinking is a springboard for this goal.


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Program Accomplishments

Achiya recently concluded a successful conducted a three-year pilot program which introduced the Creative Thinking Program into scores of preschools and elementary school classrooms in Haredi communities in Bnei Brak, Elad and Holon. Alongside the Program’s introduction into the classrooms, the three- year pilot introduced eight-session workshops for mothers and sons in Bnei Brak and Elad. Mothers were conscientious and enthusiastic participants in the eight-session Creative Writing Workshops conducted by Achiya, and their attendance was consistent despite the tremendous demands of their large households. The mothers reported sharing the lessons learned with their other children (most have families of 6-7 children). Mothers who work as kindergarten and elementary school teachers also reported introducing the content of the Creative Thinking Workshops to the girls in their classrooms.


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How do you measure the success of your program?

As part of the broader pilot program for the Creative Thinking pilot program, Achiya has asked the Henrietta Szold Institute to conduct a professional analysis and evaluation of the program. Preliminary outcomes indicate a high level of success in the inculcation of the program among Haredi educators, parents and the achievements of the participating children. A final report will include a more in-depth analysis and recommendations for building on the momentum achieved during the pilot three year program.

Additional measures of success include the positive response among the participating mothers, as well as Talmud Torah principals representing diverse communities in Bnei Brak, Elad and Holon—including Hassidic and “Lithuanian” streams as well as newly religious Edot Mizrach school leaders in Holon.

Both the Ministry of Education and JDC-Ashalim are tracking the progress of the Creative Thinking Program. Once the Program is implemented in seven communities (a total of 84 pre-school classes, it will be eligible for government funding in additional communities throughout Israel.

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