Gush Etzion Foundation

Reshit School

“Reshit”, a state-religious experimental elementary school, is an institution that offers full integration for special-needs students, within a regular academic framework.

The school was established in 2000 by a group of parents and educators sharing a unique and innovative approach to learning, based on the idea that special-needs students and normative students enjoy mutual benefits from a shared regular study environment. Reshit is located in Kibbutz Rosh Tzurim, in Gush Etzion, and its mission is the pursuit of a unique educational model that promotes respect for and understanding of the other, through changing paradigms and breaking down mental, educational and social barriers.

Five hundred students comprise 18 classes ranging from 1st to 8th grade. Each class is staffed by a homeroom teacher, a Special-Ed teacher, and a National Service volunteer. Some 85 students have special needs arising from a variety of disorders, including Downs’ Syndrome, CP, autism, mental retardation, and more. Each special-needs student follows a personalized study program suited to his/her needs and aimed at developing independent functioning. The program includes partial integration in the class along with individualized instruction and supplemental therapies including animals, music, art, occupational therapy and speech therapy.

The vision:

Our dream is to set up a petting zoo at the school, to play a central therapeutic role on the individual and group level.

Over the past few years there has been growing awareness that a bond with animals offers a response to a wide range of needs. The experience of raising one’s own animal and taking care of its daily needs has many beneficial effects: it opens new channels of communication, develops the ability to assume long-term responsibility, and improves interpersonal interaction and cooperation. Taking care of animals teaches the child empathy, caring, and devotion, while work in the petting zoo nurtures commitment and consistency.

Rationale:

Animals are a special kind of mediators: on one hand they are living, responding beings; on the other hand, they are accepting and uncritical. These characteristics allow them to serve as a means for creating contact on different levels, and to facilitate good communication that can help create the basis for behavioral and/or psychological change.

Positive interaction with animals in general, and the raising of one’s own animal in particular, offers many other points of contact that may be channeled to serve different needs of the young caretaker and of the adults accompanying and guiding his/her development.

The petting zoo will give expression to the equality among the students in their ability to care for the animals, with each assuming responsibility for a different sphere in accordance with his/her abilities and needs.

Item Details Cost (in USD)
Establishment of petting zoo groundwork and infrastructure 18,500
Auxiliary features Fence, shelves, sitting areas for students 3,200
Purchase of animals rabbits, hamsters, parakeets, doves 2,300
Food and equipment for food For one year 3,500
Vet services, vaccinations 3,700
Therapist-teacher 30 hours per week, including zoo maintenance per year 20,000
Income
Participation of the parents’ organization 14,500
Total project cost: 36,700