The people of our Israeli partnership region, Netivot and Sdot Negev, have have faced an especially challenging year. Situated only a few miles from the border with Gaza, these communities are regularly targeted by Hamas rockets and were strongly impacted during the recent outbreak of war.

One heartbreaking consequence of this reality is its effect on local children. But local educators are taking it upon themselves to help the children of this region gain the skills they need, thanks in part to a Jewish Federation-supported initiative called StudioLabs.

As part of this initiative, Yitzhak Shlomi, principal at Daat School, recently had an English class create a “resilience dome,” where students can escape their harsh realities by producing live events and interactive content using technology.

“The resilience dome can build and empower you, and that is helpful when times get difficult,” said Aviv, a 14-year old participant. “It changed the way I see myself and helped me learn that I can do things that I didn’t know I could do.”

StudioLabs is a traveling program, tailored for young teens to identify critical problems within their local communities and work with teachers and facilitators to address them through technology and storytelling. The idea is to make learning experiential instead of passive and to focus the process on real-life problems.

Through StudioLabs, students explore science, technology, art, creative expression, storytelling and other 21st century skills, empowering them to grow into strong leaders.

One of the main goals of the program is to foster strong roots or “place attachment” to communities, so that the youth feel invested in the future of their regions. By creating projects focused on unique challenges to a given area, StudioLabs encourages kids to find pride in their communities and view their neighborhoods with limitless potential.  

“We introduce young teens to things happening in their community that they otherwise wouldn’t be exposed to,” explained Boaz Israeli, StudioLab facilitator. “This provides them with pride, a stronger sense of belonging and resilience, because it changes the way they see opportunities.”

During one StudioLab project in Sdot Negev, participants created an interactive media campaign to promote a solution to pest issues which were wreaking havoc on local sunflower farms. 

This project not only created a solution for a real-life problem, but it also exposed students to the possible career paths within agriculture, which they might not have otherwise known. Defying traditional perceptions of farming, the experience revealed that there is an academic side, a food science side and a marketing side to the industry. 

StudioLabs is open to all youth, but the real power within its mission is how it transforms and empowers the girls in the region. Women, particularly those who are religious, living in the Sdot Negev and Netivot generally have limited options when it comes to their careers. But StudioLabs provides girls with a supportive environment and matches them with female mentors who work in science. 

In the more urban area of Netivot, a group of ninth grade girls spearheaded a StudioLab project to address the issue of food waste reduction through the production of a digital campaign. Praised for its systematic change on a local level, the girls presented their campaign to government officials and at an international conference for corporate social responsibility. 

“The fact that the Jewish Federation helps enable these projects and that so far they have all taken place in our partnership regions should be a huge source of pride for Jewish Federation supporters,” said Tali Lidar, director of Israel and Global Operations at the Jewish Federation’s Israel office. “Through StudioLabs, supporters are helping to shape young minds and the way they navigate their world.”

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