: By Rivka Borochov

A new program creating young environmental ambassadors through the Bloomfield Science Museum in Jerusalem is training several hundred third- through sixth-graders to be stewards of Jerusalem’s ecological future.

Jerusalem of old –– and new –– already boasts some very sustainable elements, from narrow car-less streets in the Old City to pedestrian promenades and a new light rail system.

Most residents live in apartments, which are much “greener” than single-family dwellings that take up land,and, with smaller living spaces, Jerusalemites tend to do more with much less stuff.

However “green” Jerusalem may already be, there are layers of society that have absolutely no awareness of the worldwide environment movement. Without this awareness, water and energy are being wasted, and plastic and paper are not being recycled.

The new program at the museum takes 300 children and radically changes their knowledge about environmental issues in their community and the world at large.

Esthy Brezner, head of the educational programs at Bloomfield, says the project includes visits to recycling plants and water-treatment facilities. The program, sponsored by the Jerusalem Foundation, the Green Network, the Heschel Center for Environmental Learning and other organizations, includes two days at the museum for workshops and activities. The learning continues at the schools with a series of lectures and workshops.

Change is in the air

A visit to the museum includes a tour of pavilions showcasing Israeli innovation, much of which is based on renewable energy ideas or clean technologies. Other pavilions, also open to general admission visitors, point out the environmental angle in many of the other displays.

It was a museum-wide decision to build environmentalism into existing exhibits, says Brezner, rather than create one exhibit specifically on the environment.

Having taught in New York, Brezner says that Israelis and Jerusalemites in particular have a lot to learn. But even after only three years of running various environmental programs through the museum, she can already see change in the schools where she teaches science.

Under her guidance, the children learn the importance of water conservation, energy savings, and how and why one should recycle. The program also takes the kids to the Hebrew University campus, where they learn about solar research being done there.

As other countries have found, educating the children can broadly affect an entire household and even an entire community, Brezner believes.

In other programs that Brezner supervises, the museum reaches out to Arab schools to make sure that they too get the basics in environmentalism. Improving the environment doesn’t only make a city look better. It improves mental and physical health and creates a basis for cooperative efforts.

“Now change in Jerusalem is coming from all directions,” Brezner reports proudly. “This is very good. In many neighborhoods they now have recycling containers, which is a very good sign. Now environmentalism is coming to Jerusalem.”

The museum is also linked to a wider European network that is aiming to educate people about climate awareness in a program called ACCENT.

And all this talk of environmental change has also spurred some internal changes in the museum’s daily operations: “We are changing our electricity system to be more efficient. We did the same for the water system last year and so we ourselves are trying to be more aware,” says Brezner. “We believe in it. This is our life.”

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