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  • Viva Sarah Press

Why did a Chinese film crew follow educational clowns around an Israeli primary school?

Updated: Jan 13, 2020


Yijun Zhou speaks with Talia Safra and Viva Sarah Press about educational clowning.

Educational clowning is still making its mark in Israel. Of the thousands of schools in the country today, 11 have taken part in piloting educational clowns in schools.

So, how did a Chinese documentary film crew even know the initiative to create a more joyful, colorful and happier school setting is underway?

Backtrack to May 15.

An email arrived in my inbox from Ryanne Hsu, a Hong Kong-based content coordinator for Childhood Elsewhere, a six-part documentary series on education in Finland, India, Japan, Britain, Israel and China.

She had read my blogs on educational clowning on this site and wanted to know if I’d be interested in taking part in the documentary.

It was an out-of-the-blue email message and I wasn’t sure whether it was real or spam. The thought that my blog and the echo of my educational adventures had reached across oceans and lands was exciting. So, I Googled Childhood Elsewhere (纪实:他乡的童年) and found a fascinating teaser on Vimeo featuring Chinese journalist Zhou Yijun (周轶君).

I wrote back to Ryanne to say, Yes!

Fast forward to today, the film crew came to follow me – and Educational Clowning's Talia Safra – around a primary school in Rosh Haayin.

With a sound man and cameraman, a producer and a journalist in our entourage, we spent three hours walking around the school, going upstairs and downstairs, saying good mornings to different classes, and being swarmed in the hallways.

The pupils at the Shimon Peres school in Rosh Haayin ran towards the camera crew. They were a bit disappointed to hear that the crew was actually at the school to film the two educational clowns, Oshi and Leepa, and not them shouting out, “I love you, mom.”

Miri Nitzani, principal of the Shimon Peres primary school in Rosh Haayin being interviewed for Childhood Elsewhere. Photo: VSP

In each country included in the documentary series, Childhood Elsewhere focuses on a different question. In Israel, the documentary looks at the meaning of innovation and what kind of impact it’s making in the education arena.

Of course, when I'm not an educational clown, I write and give talks about the culture of innovation. This was a perfect way for me to speak about all parts of my life, rolled into one.

We spoke about the meaning of innovation, the Israeli view of failure, how chutzpah plays a role in Israeli innovation, why EQ (emotional intelligence) is important in the 21st century, educational philosophies and why educational clowning is innovative.

We filmed at one of the most innovative – if not ‘the’ most innovative, creative and community-building -- primary schools in the country, named after the former president of Israel. Shimon Peres famously said: “Unless you educate your children and spend less money on conflicts, unless you develop your science, technology and industry, you don’t have a future.”

The documentary also filmed at a primary school in Modiin, a school on a kibbutz, the Kfar Hayarok school and other places of learning around Israel.

The series is meant to broadcast on Youku, a Chinese video platform equivalent to Netflix. I hope it will also have a Vimeo, YouTube or Netflix release so that we can see it as well.

Update - November 2019: The entire series of Childhood Elsewhere can be viewed on Youku. Click here.

עדכון: דוקומנטרי על חינוך בישראל בהשוואה לסין

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