The “Adam/Adama” project is a very serious interdisciplinary initiative involving grades 9-12 in Neveh Channah, one of the six schools belonging to the Ohr Torah Stone network of educational institutions. The program features a combination of frontal classroom learning, field trips and projects throughout the area which teach students various aspects of ecology, sustainability, and the environment.
Already in its third year, Adam/Adama is led by Arik Har-Zahav. One of five Israeli “Environmental Heroes” honored by KKL-JNF and Yediot Aharonot on June 1, 2014, Har-Zahav was recognized for the environmental programs and recycling projects he established at Neveh Channah as well as at Neveh Shmuel, another Ohr Torah Stone high school for boys. Both high schools are located in Gush Etzion, just south of Jerusalem.
The backbone of the Adam/Adama program is a total of 16 classroom hours per week which are devoted specifically to classes in Environmental Studies for grades 9-12. These classes are augmented by field trips; students are taken on excursions through Gush Etzion every few weeks in order to examine the world around them and see what changes have taken place (and why), from Biblical times through today. Gush Etzion is rich in archeology ranging from the Path of the forefathers to scores of ancient ritual baths, enabling students to study the earth from a geological
perspective. In addition, students are exposed to an agricultural perspective through trips to vineyards, ancient olive presses, or the stone terraces lining the wadis in the region.
The Adam/Adama curriculum also permeates other aspects of school learning. Jewish studies courses, for instance, now also include teaching units exploring what the Jewish sources, Jewish philosophy, the Bible, the Oral Law and Jewish history have to say about the environment, recycling, conservation and preservation. (Example: when students learn the Biblical directive: “Bal tashchit”—do not destroy, the commandment is also discussed through an ecological lens. Students thus learn not to squander the earth’s resources – not only because that is what God commanded us, but also because they understand the ecological, social and financial ramifications.)
In addition, several units in the Chemistry, Biology and Physics syllabi are devoted to a scientific perspective of ecology, development of life and nature and preservation. (Example: Neveh Channa pushed for the local station monitoring Gush Etzion’s air pollution to be placed on the roof of the school so that students can be responsible for monitoring, charting and evaluating the daily reports.) Even the Literature track now reserves sessions through which to address the environment.
By their senior year, students at Neveh Channah are prepared to challenge the anthropocentrism embedded in traditional western thinking through an “Environmental Ethics” class in which they grapple with the moral dilemmas that arise in regard ecological balance. Students discuss preserving mankind vs. preserving nature, the extension of ethical boundaries to include the non-human world, the ethics of agriculture, whether or not humans ‘own’ the land, and more, all with an eye toward preparing them to be future leaders of our nation and true citizens of the earth.