About Shvilim

Shvilim (paths in Hebrew) is a center for education and nature-based expeditions established on the beliefs that nature is the best teacher and that through nature, individuals and groups undergo strengthening processes and grow.

I grew up in a kibbutz. Therefore the terms group, fellowship, and together have always been a part of me.
I worked with children in the kibbutz greenhouses, and instructed youth in various education systems and youth movements.
As a grownup, I worked as a therapist and tour guide.
With time, I wished to once again work with children and youth; help them shape their world, infuse meaning, and catalyze change. Provide support, encourage, and give children that prod that can make a world of difference in a child’s life.

With this in mind, I established Shvilim; an environment that provides oversight, supervision, and challenge, an environment in which children and youth develop abilities and self-efficacy through experiential situations that resemble life and life-circumstances.

All center activities take place in nature and use nature as a mediating tool.
Providing therapeutic sessions, the center works with groups and individuals.


An avant-garde nature-based education center, we aspire to:

foster self-esteem

Bestow emotional security, foster self-esteem, and drive children and youth to personal growth and wellbeing.

nature-based experiences

Provide unique and empowering nature-based experiences and implant confidence for sojourning in nature.

shaping of Israel’s youth

Partake in the shaping of Israel’s youth, prepare them for good citizenship, and teach the meaning of giving and contribution.

core values

Address humanity’s and society’s core values with an emphasis on dignity, listening, giving, and humility.

human-nature relationships

Become a leader in the fields of hiking and expeditions, alongside promoting and enhancing human-nature relationships:
- with emphasis on geography, history, and the love for the land.
- help build a generation of willing and committed ambassadors who act for and respect the


Support, in particular, those children and youth who feel unworthy or less than others; because of trauma, life circumstances, health or developmental issues, unsupportive environments at school, at home, or among peers which have disrupted their self-worth and self-efficacy.

Food for thought

With many paths in education, it is possible to advance also those who need
a different mindset and approach.

Let's help them fly!


We believe in a meaningful and constructive educational process; a process that guides and directs but also embraces the space needed for self-shaping.
The center’s goal is to expand experience boundaries, and support the creation of new insights about a child’s self, about his or her friends, as we help them understand and organize their feelings and thoughts, thereby choosing their behavior.
Our educators’ role is to mediate, reflect, bridge, and shed light on the situations and circumstances.
Since we are an educational team, we don’t necessarily provide solutions, instead, we prefer the children to grapple with the problem and try to solve it themselves, thus developing not only problem-solving abilities but also skills like restraint, flexibility, listening, communication, and reaching agreements.


Dotan Shabtay, the center’s director, earned his bachelor’s degree in Ancient Israel Studies.
He is a certified T.E.A.M and PIVOT practitioner and a facilitator for groups of youth at-risk.
A tour guide and an expedition’s instructor, Dotan also holds certification from the Ministry of Education and the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel.

Miri Golan is the center’s head of training; a group facilitator and a sex educator for children and youth, Miri holds an MSW (Master of Social Work).

Shvilim activities are carried out through two chapters:

The Gilboa Chapter

Established in 2013, the Gilboa chapter is active among 9 schools, and 30 towns and settlements.

Shachar Merzel, the regional manager, holds an undergraduate degree in Geography and Israel Studies, and he is also a certified tour guide.
Shachar brings extensive experience in instructing children and youth, also in pre-military academies.

The Mate Asher Chapter

Established in 2015, the Mate Asher chapter is active among two schools, and 20 towns and settlements.

Liat Shcefferman, the regional manager, is a group facilitator and a therapist in the expressive arts. Liat is also a couples and family therapist and holds a teaching certificate with many years’ experience from the Ministry of Education.


Responsibility and role modeling

We advocate role modeling and responsibility, and undertake to look tough and unsuccessful moments straight in the eye. We commit to improve and correct through understanding that our behavior and conduct shapes and affects others. We believe that a true educational moment happens when a person you have seen grow takes something you have given or taught, for the way.


We commit to the safety of the children and address safety issues frequently. We understand our responsibility for the children’s safety and wellbeing and therefore conduct ongoing risk management assessments and fully abide by the law. Furthermore, since the center’s objective is to strengthen the children’s self-esteem and self-efficacy through different experiences, we carefully monitor, control, and take all necessary precautions.


We build trustworthy and strengthening, empathic, understanding, and directing relationships with our clients and we never breach their trust.

Integrity and transparency

Our conduct and performance are based on integrity and truth. Our practice is transparent and respects people’s resources (time & money) on all levels, and at all times.


We undertake to provide excellent service and commit to three guiding principles:

Every client is first and foremost a person
Clients receive excellent value for their money
Our service is polite, kind, and always comes with a smile.
Entrepreneurship and innovation

We encourage initiative, curiosity, and innovation. We believe these qualities are significant features for planning, setting goals, as well as for developing personally and professionally. We are aware that these qualities require courage and confidence which are essential for shaping the adult. We strive to develop while creating an open-minded atmospherethat fosters and embraces new ideas on all levels of our practice.

Social and environmental responsibility

We conduct all activities with care and respect for the environment; its fauna, flora, and the landscape and believe that humanity is an inherent part of it.


We established Shvilim Center with complete faith and belief that any person at any age - children, youth, and adults - can change.
As Prof. Reuven Feuerstein (Bar Ilan University) said, “Human beings are changing entities.”

Self-efficacy is one of the center’s pillars - the perception a person carries about his or her ability to behave, perform, and act in a certain way that will lead to, or yield a particular outcome.
Or, in other words: a person’s belief in their ability to carry out an assignment.

Four corresponding stages weaved into and throughout the process form the Shvilim Center Model:

Stage one - building self-efficacy
Through completion of tasks that include functional coping, experiencing, experimenting, mimicking another person’s behavior (role modeling), and using verbal encouragement; the mediator is perceived as both authority and a significant figure.
Stage two - discomfort and fear as change agents
This stage of the model is crucial, and where true change catalyzes. It combines imparting cognitive patterns that help manage the emotions; fear, sense of danger, and elation which are triggered when stepping out of the comfort zone. The outcome - children undergo a favorable, independent experience. “Although children have an existential, sensual need to taste danger and enthusiasm, it does not mean they should be engaged in dangerous activities. However, they do need to feel they are taking a tremendous risk. It frightens them, but then they overcome fear and understand a thing or two about themselves. When they are left to themselves, they take full responsibility for their actions and the implications - an exciting experience.” (Hannah Rosen, 2012)
Stage three - Choice
Even though everything we do is following a decision-making and choice process not all our choices are conscious. Some are, yet others are not. Getting up in the morning is a choice, brushing our teeth is a choice behaving one way or another is always a choice, and so are being angry, choosing to shout, fight, or cry - these are all choices we make. Working with the children, we show them how for every problem or deliberation there is always more than one answer or solution and that we can, and must learn to choose.
Stage four - taking responsibility for our decisions, choices, and actions while understanding their meaning and implications
At this stage, we show and reflect how every action, behavior, or statement triggers a response that brings about a shift. The shift can be a positive shift or a negative one. Therefore, each person in a group should be aware of themselves; seek and find the way to acknowledge their emotions, and learn how to share them in a way that does not hurt other people. At this stage, we show and reflect how every action, behavior, or statement triggers a response that brings about a shift. The shift can be a positive shift or a negative one. Therefore, each person in a group should be aware of themselves; seek and find the way to acknowledge their emotions, and learn how to share them in a way that does not hurt other people.



Shvilim Center’s team provides group work and activities, at schools during school hours, as part of the schools’ non-formal education curriculums. After school, and coordinating the activities with school administrations and youth’s leaderships, we follow on the groups in the community.
Aligned with group work goals and objectives, and with the center’s curriculum, most activities are held outdoors.


In our rounded stone hut, at Kibbutz Dalia, we hold individual therapeutic sessions. The unique building provides the optimal conditions for individual work with children, youth, and adults who need strengthening, encouragement, and direction whether mental, emotional, or physical.
In children’s and youth’s processes parents are an inherent part of the process.
Although we meet at the hut, the sessions usually take place outdoors regardless of weather conditions. And sometimes, the weather is the thing itself. Our purpose is to inspire the development of confidence, self-esteem, and self-efficacy through empowerment and experiential situations in, and using nature.

Instructing, facilitating, and mentoring teachers’ teams

teachers get to know themselves better, and strengthen their educational vision as we provide tools for improving classroom climates.


The center hosts workshops for organizations and societies on various educational, inspirational, and philosophical topics and personalizes the content to groups’ needs. Most activities are held outdoors to encourage group dynamics. After the workshop, we gather, eat, share experiences, and reflect.

Wilderness expeditions

The center organizes wilderness expeditions for non-formal education programs and groups. Expeditions can take anything between a few hours to 3-4 days. The outdoors, nature, and wilderness welcome and provide the ideal surroundings and circumstances for group work; as individuals in the group undergo meaningful, educational, and value-added processes. A team from the center with a 4WD-vehicle accompanies the group every step of the way; guiding, supporting, and professionally responding to any need. We take safety and security issues extra seriously, and therefore personnel assigned to the expedition will always depend on the number of participants. Expeditions take place on weekends and during school holidays.



Somewhere in between arrogance and self-deprecation; humility is a quality that delivers all the messages without having to use words.


Stick to the truth and confront the children with the implications of their behavior. Simultaneously, provide a value-oriented backbone that inspires courage, self-esteem and includes taking responsibility for one’s actions.


Always find that place in the heart to help someone in need. Show empathy and take action. We encourage and embrace the values of respect and tolerance between all people, as well as develop the ability to give and help others.

Role modeling

The virtue of virtues - our conduct affects the conduct of others.
Our language impacts theirs; and our dreams brighten other people’s dreams.


Dare with knowing the limits. Respect and be respected. Help build an environment that bridges between people and cultures, everywhere and at all times.


Feel wonderful about doing something for someone, and learn to give with no desire to get in return.


Telling the truth brings peace. There is no need to defend ourselves, lie, or try to reconstruct events.

Our nature-based activities develop skills and proficiencies on two main levels
The group level

Growth and development processes performed in a group improve awareness, strengthen self-confidence, build self-perception, and teach social skills.
Our group activities, based on a series of sessions, take place once or twice a week. The process combines a challenge and then a group discussion. Participants carry out assignments which can be physical, creative, mental, and emotional. The facilitator mediates, directs, and reflects as the group discusses feelings, thoughts, choices, as well as practices empathy, softness, and so forth.
Each assignment provides for group processes to come into play and reflects on the group’s dynamics. Overcoming the challenge, it helps the group build cohesion and trust among its members, fosters leadership, and develops decision-making mechanisms.
Supporting experience processing, and with time and place appropriate, facilitators feedback and provide positive reinforcement.

The personal level

Children who are more sensitive than others, whom also cope with social and emotional difficulties, can live with a sense of failure that hampers self-esteem. As a result, they often give up any idea or challenge even before trying. These children need a place in which they can express themselves, experience, and become stronger without fearing what people think or say.
During a series of sessions, we get to know each other, build mutual trust, and provide each child with a nature-based therapy and coaching plan that is built and tailored to meet specific needs.
During the sessions slowly but surely, step-by-step, and without pressure. the children get the opportunity to lead, each at their own pace. They then understand that success is possible, over and again.
Results are surprisingly fast which inspire the children and fill them with pride.
Experiencing success infuses courage and allows these children to dare, also in social settings that involve other children.

Children don’t remember words they remember experiences and how they felt

Therefore, experiential learning is a Shvilim Center’s premise. Whether in a private session or a group, hands-on experiencing physical, mental, and emotional challenges cultivate better internalization and learning the lessons from an experience or event.


Children do not remember words; they remember experiences and how they felt. Therefore, experiential learning at Shvilim Center is a premise. The practice of physical, mental, and emotional challenges promise improved learning, as well as better internalization of personal conclusions derived from any event, whether experienced individually or in a group.


We often use fire in our nonverbal activities;
because the way we work with fire teaches a lot about behavior.
Who lights the bonfire? Who is in charge?
Does anyone fear the act of lighting it?
Does the child plan his or her steps and actions, or do they go straight ahead with trial and error?
Are they satisfied with the bonfire, or were they frustrated because they were left empty-handed with no fire?
Who is responsible for boundaries? Fire boundaries, and perhaps personal boundaries?
Who takes risks, perhaps also in life?

Similarly, an activity with burning candles teaches much about success and failure.
Passing a burning candle four times, among a group sitting in a circle - just passing the candle around, passing the candle in silence, passing it silently with dripping on the hand, and passing the candle around blindfolded. Indeed, these rounds produce much frustration, but they also build cohesion and provide the conditions for group members to comment, reflect, demonstrate leadership, talk, get angry, etc.

Another activity is a sawing competition using blunt saws -
an activity that encourages achieving goals and perseverance.
Working with wood in a group has many benefits - it stimulates the sense of smell, ventilates aggressions, shows who helps who, who thinks about safety, and do the girls in the group follow a gender role or saw enthusiastically instead?


Working at heights immediately confronts children with fear.
Apparent, widely felt and expressed outdoors; fear is a key element of a person’s sole.
We, therefore, address it carefully.
We explain the role fear and its mechanisms play in our soles
and together with the children, we grow - upward.
We teach children to address fear, talk to it, regulate it, and restrict it.
Through the process, the children learn to handle, manage, and control fear
as well as overcome it.
Children who manage their fears know how to manage their anger.


Work at the center is with nature, in nature, and through nature while facilitators mediate the natural surroundings, sow moments and life insights.

The natural surroundings offer many merits:

When in nature, one cannot run from it

When in nature, one cannot run from it. Nor can we stop the rain or the sun. The natural surroundings place potent constraints  which force us to control our behavior, cope efficiently and effectively with stressful situations, and find solutions to problems, on the way and as we go.

empowers self-efficacy

Succeeding among challenging terrain empowers self-efficacy and strengthens the belief that success in life or school is possible, no matter how difficult the task, assignment, or challenge.

nature touches

Exposure to nature touches everyone and allows for both opening up and calming down. Nature provides favorable circumstances that curb violence and shape behavior.

stepping out of our comfort zone

Spending time outdoors in unfamiliar surroundings requires stepping out of our comfort zone and coping with unknown difficulties. Under these circumstances, we accelerate and enhance personal growth
and bring fast change that shows up right in front of us.

outdoors together experiences as equals

In school settings, teachers and students work outdoors together and share human experiences as equals; extracting the overwhelming burden from the context of academic success.

Common questions

What we offer?
  1. Non-formal education activities for groups of children and youth in communities, towns, and villages.
  2. Experiential and empowering group and individual sessions for children, youth, and adults in nature.
  3. Professional work with teachers and educational staff in schools.
  4. Host for workshops on various educational, spiritual, and philosophical topics
  5. Wilderness expeditions - going out to nature; triggering change in the inner space
Who is it for?
The Shvilim Center programs develop skills and abilities on two levels: The group level Learning social skills, and belonging to a group enhances self-awareness to behavior. Shvilim Center’s activities cultivate confidence, positive self-perception, and empower growth groups that meet weekly or biweekly. In the meetings, the group addresses a challenge; the instructor will give the group a task (can be physical, mental, or emotional), or tell a story. In the second part of the session, the group discusses and shares feelings, emotions, and thoughts. Every task or story teaches about dynamics in the group whereas dealing with and overcoming challenges foster leadership, support group decision-making processes, as well as team and trust building. Radiating understanding and empathy, helping participants process the experience instructors reflect and provide positive reinforcement at the right time and amount. Both parts of the session are carefully and attentively mediated allowing for choice and creation. The personal level Children with social and emotional difficulties often live with a sense of failure that hampers their self-esteem. These children tend to be more sensitive than others and are likely to reject outright any idea of taking on a challenge or trying something out. First and foremost, these children need a place in which they can express themselves, experience, and strengthen without fear of what people will think or say. Shvilim Center tailors a personal nature-based therapy and coaching plan for each child. During a series of sessions, we get to know each other and build trust. Slowly but surely, step-by-step, children get the opportunity to lead as they understand, time and again, that success is possible. Results are surprisingly fast; inspiring the children and filling them with pride. Experiencing success infuses courage and motivates them to dare also in social settings that involve other children.
We believe
We believe in an educational process that is instructional and impactful; a process that not only directs and builds but also provides the space required for personal growth. Our role is to reflect and mediate situations and circumstances; to shed light on certain aspects, to expand the experience and nurture the creation of insight and understanding towards oneself and peers. To offer alternatives for organizing young adults’ emotions and thoughts in a way that supports awareness and choice of behavior. As educators, our role isn’t necessarily to provide answers or solutions but rather let the children grapple with the problem or question as they try to find solutions and answers themselves. Dealing with challenges, children develop problem-solving skills, qualities like restraint, flexibility, and attentiveness, as well as communication and negotiations competencies, and the ability to reach common understanding and agreement.

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