Every November Akiva hosts its annual Grandparents and Special Friends Day, welcoming grandparents, and special friends into the school for specialized programming and a chance to see what their grandchild’s Akiva experience is all about. This year’s virtual program found grandparents and students staring into the eyes of a lizard perched on a docent’s head, watching a Burmese python wrap itself around its handler, getting an up-close look at tiny stick-bugs hardly visible in their camouflaged state, and hearing the sharp snap of a scorpion’s pincer. The global move to virtual programming and communication has many discernable downsides, but it has also offered an important upside. Our access to people and places is no longer limited by distance and time. We now have the opportunity and ability to meet people and explore places that were previously inaccessible. For Akiva students and their grandparents, this year’s annual Grandparents and Special Friends Day was a chance to make the most of this opportuneness and visit The Biblical Museum of Natural History in Bet Shemesh, Israel.
The Biblical Museum of Natural History was established in 2014 to give visitors a window into the beauty and natural world of the Torah. Through its collection of live and non-live exhibits, the museum provides an experience that is both exciting and educational. During Akiva’s virtual tour, students and grandparents were given an up-close look at reptiles and insects found in Israel and the Torah. They learned how these creatures, despite seeming so lowly and mundane, can be a great source of inspiration.
Susan Cohen, grandmother to fifth grader Lyla and first grader Abby, expressed the enjoyment she and her granddaughters had being able to, “tour the wildlife at the Biblical Museum of Natural History. It was a great and informative way to celebrate Akvia’s Grandparents Day.”
Cohen’s granddaughter Lyla said she, “really enjoyed watching the program along with my Baba. Both of our favorite parts were seeing and learning about the animals in the Torah like the tarantula. I loved that I got to enjoy this with my Baba and all the other people there too.”
Akiva appreciates the critical role that grandparents play in the health and wellbeing of children and works hard to support and foster these strong intergenerational relationships. Vicki Jacobs, grandmother to Leah in second grade, reflects on Akiva’s unique ability to welcome and engage grandparents into the school. Jacobs says that while most schools emphasize parent communication and engagement, at Akiva, “The buck doesn’t stop there. We as grandparents have the same interest in the students' progression and comfort. Akiva offers us the same opportunity and journey. I get to witness that my granddaughter is learning and feeling safe, heard, respected, and loved.”
Head of School Rabba Daniella Pressner said, “This year’s Grandparents and Special Friends Day program was designed to provide students and grandparents with a shared and unique experience. You can never underestimate the impact that a grandparent or special friend has on a child, and at Akiva, we always want to encourage these impactful and meaningful relationships.”