Israel opens first-ever high-tech kindergarten
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Israel opens first-ever high-tech kindergarten

Robotics, physics, astronomy, and math are just some of the skills 5-year-olds will pick up at new Beersheba facility

(From left to right): Former IDF chief of staff and chairman of the Rashi Fund, Gabi Ashkenazi; Beersheba Mayor Ruby Danilovich; Lockheed-Martin CEO Marilyn Hewson; and Education Minister Naftali Bennett at the opening of the Beersheba tech kindergarten, October 14, 2015. (Sasson Tiram)
(From left to right): Former IDF chief of staff and chairman of the Rashi Fund, Gabi Ashkenazi; Beersheba Mayor Ruby Danilovich; Lockheed-Martin CEO Marilyn Hewson; and Education Minister Naftali Bennett at the opening of the Beersheba tech kindergarten, October 14, 2015. (Sasson Tiram)

There are programs in high schools, junior highs, and even elementary schools to encourage kids to study the sciences and math — and now there’s a kindergarten that does this, too.

Israel’s first Science Kindergarten opened in mid-October, equipped with advanced computer equipment, Lego sets to develop motor skills, robotics activities, and activities to stimulate interest in space matters.

“Exposing kindergarten-age students to the sciences will open a window for them into endless activities and challenges,” said Education Minister Naftali Bennett at the opening of the kindergarten last Thursday. “We will see the fruits of this venture in the coming years. And, without a doubt, it will have a very positive effect on the lives of these children, and will greatly benefit Israel.”

Located in Beersheba, the kindergarten — with three classes — will serve up to 100 children, with at least 300 hours of instruction and training in science and tech subjects during the school year. The project is being sponsored by the Education Ministry, aerospace tech firm Lockheed-Martin, the Beersheba municipality, and the Rashi Foundation.

The kindergarten — the first of many the ministry hopes to open — will be a grand experiment in developing a curriculum that can educate 5-year-olds on the basics of hard sciences — and hard subjects — like physics, chemistry, astronomy, and robotics, and introduce kids to the scientific method, instilling in them a love of research and learning.

Developing that curriculum will be a challenge, but it can be done; for example, the kindergarten is equipped with Lego sets that will be used not just for free play, but to build robots. Lego, in fact, makes a kit specifically for the construction of robots — called the Lego Mindstorms robot kit — designed for kindergarten-age kids to build simple robots with limbs that move, vehicles that move a few centimeters, and cranes or arms that can pick up small objects. The point is for students to learn and understand the principles of robot building and operation.

The kit is in use in other kindergartens in Israel as well, but the Beersheba kindergarten, the sponsors promise, will provide more advanced training in robotics and the other science and tech fields than other facilities, which provide far more limited education for young children.

Lockheed-Martin, which is helping sponsor the project, is a big believer in Negev tech; the company last year opened an R&D center in Beersheba. “Israel’s continued growth as an advanced high-tech nation requires the development of a younger generation that is well trained and educated in areas like science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. These are the skills companies like Lockheed-Martin need the most,” said CEO Marilyn Hewson.

“We are proud to be participating in this project together with the Education Ministry, the city of Beersheba, and the Rashi Foundation,” continued Hewson. “All of us have the same goal — to help develop science and tech education in Israel, from kindergarten through high school.”

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