01/20/2011 04:03

Sviva Israel launches Web-based ‘Eco Campus’ allowing children to log on, continue expanding their knowledge in fun, interactive environment.

Taking advantage of the Web to teach kids about Jewish environmental values, Sviva Israel has recently launched an online Eco Campus.

The idea is to provide a “virtual home” for entire schools around the Jewish world to blog about their activities, play games, have access to curriculum- related materials and learn about protecting the environment.

Instead of the latest Facebook game, tweens (ages eight-15) can log on and continue expanding their knowledge in a fun and interactive environment that complements the environmental curriculum they’re learning in school.

Sviva Israel ( founders couple Carmi and Tamar Wisemon explained to The Jerusalem Post this week that while individuals can sign up on their own, the program is designed to be a platform for entire schools.

Every school has its own building on the virtual campus that houses a blog, school garden, classroom and gallery. Pupils can build their own avatars – with eco-friendly logoed shirts – and travel around their school and campus.

To prevent abuse and ensure a safe and age-appropriate experience, each real-life school can limit access to its virtual school to its own pupils. Alternatively, they can offer access to other schools in their network – New Jersey schools for instance – to compare and share materials, Carmi told the Post.

Students can also use the site to compete to see which school has the lowest “ecological footprint” – a measurement of how much of the earth’s resources one uses every day through travel, food, buying items and recycling.

Pupils can come back and measure their footprint as often as they want to see if they are reducing or increasing it, Carmi said.

They can also blog about their school’s activities by posting pictures, videos or comments.

The virtual campus will have departments to teach about water, energy, transportation, bio-diversity, Judaism and environment, recycling, health – and maybe even a Hebrew ulpan for non-Israeli children to learn Hebrew.

For teachers, there’s a special section with curricula and other resources.

The Eco Campus is part of Web 3.0, Tamar said. If Web 2.0 was creating a virtual world, then Web 3.0 is using that virtual world to make an impact in the real world.

“The site logs you out after an hour with a message about getting a breath of fresh air, since we didn’t want to create yet another Internet-based application which would keep kids at the computer for hours on end,” Carmi said.

The Eco Campus is a continuation of Sviva Israel’s Eco Connection Jewish environmental curriculum, which pairs schools in the US and Israel and enables them to share experiences as they go through a year-long curriculum. This past year, 17 schools took part in the program.

Next year, Sviva Israel expects 50 schools will use its curriculum through the Eco Campus.

The platform itself could be used with any school, not just Jewish ones, Carmi said.

With curricula for real-life classrooms available, coupled with the Eco Campus, the program has everything teachers need to run an environmental education program in their school.

Sviva Israel would like to continue expanding the roster of registered schools as much as possible, primarily across Israel and the US, Carmi said.

The organization and a group of volunteers from Microsoft Israel R&D won the Microsoft VC Community Contest, which provided funding and expertise.

Additional funding was provided by the Jewish Funders Network at the request of the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund.