Advancing a Holistic Approach to Education

In Gaza this past week, a taxi driver named Mansur Al-Kabas unveiled his latest invention—an electric car made from spare parts found around his city. In and of itself, this feat is remarkable, but considering the dire humanitarian situation and economic stagnation in Gaza, his invention is a testament to resiliency and perseverance despite his disadvantaged situation. From an educator’s standpoint, this example begs the question, how do we foster innovation and creativity in children, especially children living in conflict zones? How do we teach children to think critically about the world around them? In my own work at TYO, I incorporate these skills into my lesson plans each day. In my Art & Critical Thinking class during Session I this summer, my students thought about real world problems they face each day in Nablus and I encouraged them to design solutions to address these issues. Over the course of six weeks in June and July, my students redesigned their city, transforming Nablus from a place they described as a city with dirty, narrow streets and crowded housing where children could not play, to a beautiful city—New Nablus— full of public spaces, technological advancements, and happy, healthy citizens.

Each day, students addressed a different issue, working through units such as transportation, public spaces, housing, etc. They thought about exactly what the current situation is, what they wanted to change and why, and how they were going to design a solution. Through this process of physically building their models of New Nablus, my students developed the important lifelong skills of creative thinking, innovation, and critical thinking. These skills are crucial for success in life, and can allow any person, such as Mansur Al-Kabas with his electric car in Gaza, to overcome the challenges of living in a disadvantaged area.

Of course, the questions raised above are not pertinent to only NGOs and schools located in conflict areas or in the developing world—they are relevant to any organization or school system working with youth. Beyond the fundamental importance of an education that includes math, science, literacy, history and other basic subjects, educators need to develop holistic curriculums that incorporate skills such as creative thinking, innovation, and critical thinking into each lesson. This holistic curriculum development should take place not only in schools, but also at NGOs, such as TYO, who focus on non-formal education. By focusing on education through a broader lens, incorporating both formal subjects and crucial skill-building, children will benefit greatly, allowing them to interact more fully with the world around them.

During Session II, I hope to continue to focus on incorporating these skills into my Art & Health class with my 4 and 5 year-old students. Nobody is ever too young to learn these lifelong skills.


Hannah is a Summer I intern and Summer II intern in Nablus. Meet TYO's Summer II interns to find out more about them and their current projects.