The educational program completed its first year with end of year exhibitions taking place at the five White City schools: Tel Nordau, Gavrieli-Hacarmel, Gretz, Hayovel, and Balfour. The shows featured works by the 500 students who participated in the program, highlighting the process through sketches, paintings, drawings, and texts documenting their experiences of studying and living in Tel Aviv.
The White City Center’s open studio will resume its activity at the beginning of the next school year. Read the article in TimeOut Tel Aviv (translation below)
Glocalization: Meet Tel Aviv’s Version of Local Studies
Wednesday, June 13, 2018 | By: Dora Ariel
The Living in the City educational program concludes its first year, with 500 school children who studied architecture, art, and performance — and mostly how to observe the city, its buildings, and each other
As kids, we would sit in class and hear about interesting natural phenomena, learn to read a map and go outside to discover the world with our own eyes. Nowadays, in the spirit of urban renewal, another subject is added to the discipline of Local Studies (geography, history, and social engagement): Living in the City. The program, that has recently completed its inaugural year with 500 pupils from five elementary schools in Tel Aviv (Gretz, Gavrieli-Hacarmel, Balfour, Tel Nordau, and Hayovel), is dedicated to the connection between city, community, architecture, and art. The program was created by Eran Eizenhamer, Director of the Educational Program of the White City Center, who was inspired by urbanist thinkers and together with his partners at the Center, brought the idea to the responsive team of the Education Administration of the Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality.
This was the beginning of the new syllabus, a sub-discipline of Local Studies. While this discipline incorporates wider national aspects, one can say that the pupils are natives of the city as much as of the country. The instructors are female artists, architects, and designers, who invite the kids to look at their familiar environment — the home, the classroom, the neighborhood, and the city — from a new perspective, noticing less obvious aspects and exploring venture points of new possibilities, both mental and physical. In addition to theoretical work, the children engage in practical experiences both at the classroom and throughout the city, using art, performance, architecture, and science. According to Eizenhamer, the educational approach of the program rejects the concept of right or wrong answers and learning from textbooks, instead placing a greater emphasis on what the child feels and experiences and what they think about city life.
These new perspectives and connections are also among the goals that Shirley Rimon, Head of the municipal Education Administration, has set herself. “The education system needs a change,” she says, “there is a broad consensus on this among all relevant stakeholders. Here in the Education Administration, we propose an approach that might be perceived as revolutionary, but actually returns to the natural roots of education: relationship-based education; teacher-student relationship, teacher-parent relationship, school-community relationship, the student's relationship with their natural environment, the relationship between students themselves, etc. This is much more challenging than it sounds because the existing system is entirely different. The existing system is hierarchical and conservative, and the student is perceived as an empty, passive vessel and not as a curious and active explorer of their environment. This is what motivated us to introduce new content into the curriculum. The Education Administration is developing a multi-age and multi-year program from kindergarten to 12th grade, which focuses on democracy and coexistence. All the programs are also designed to instill values and skills. It’s a combination of content and pedagogy that aims to facilitate a radical change of the education system.”
The syllabus of Living in the City is divided into three units: The House: Me and My Space, The Street: Me and the Neighborhood, and The City: Our Life in the City. Children learn to understand concepts such as zoom-in, zoom-out, perspective, space, density, wandering, and scale, and the objective is to learn through doing. One of the topics the children focused on this year was The Invention of the Building as an Urban Residential System. In order to understand this unique module, the pupils are taught to analyze the whole system and work through it: the world consists of units called continents, each continent consists of units called countries, every country includes cities, the city has neighborhoods, the neighborhood is divided into streets, the street comprises buildings, the building contains apartments, an apartment has rooms, the room is arranged by furniture, and the furniture serve a specific purpose.
Walls made of memories
And what is the children’s reaction to the class? Rotem Volk, a director and performance artist and one of the program's instructors who also developed many of the lessons in the curriculum, shares a few insights: “During one of the lessons that discussed the personal space, our home, one girl said: ‘When you buy a new room, the walls are made of concrete, but after you’ve lived there for a long time, they are made of memories.’ In one of the tours around the neighborhood, one of the girls said that it's nice to just wander around aimlessly because you suddenly see all sorts of things that you’ve never seen before. We are used to thinking that kids do these things all the time, but the truth is that children today hardly walk about outside.”
At the beginning of the year, students were asked to perform an experiential exercise designed to help them understand the concept of Observation. Before they went outside to look at buildings, they had to examine the concept with each other. As part of the exercise, the students watched The Artist Is Present, the iconic work by Marina Abramović, where she sat at the MoMA and looked at strangers for two and a half months.
“When we show them certain artworks, they often think it’s strange or surreal, but once they experience the activities themselves, they discover that it’s actually challenging, fun, and interesting,” says Volk. “When they saw Abramović’s work it seemed boring and absurd, but when they were asked to do it themselves, they suddenly realized that it’s hard not to laugh and that it was actually a very personal experience. One girl said, 'It's like looking at yourself.' The kids even proposed to change the name of the program from Living in the City to World Views or Interviewing the World to emphasize the ongoing discourse with our world and our environment.”
The White City center is an Israeli-German cooperation.