The Israel Summer Forum brings the Leadership Teams from all the participting schools to Israel for a joint special program. The Forum is, in essence, a professional development program, but in the broadest sense so as to address the needs and interests of the different stakeholders. It is designed by the BASIS Director and her team, in cooperation with Israel Education partners and land providers, who are on the ground in Israel (San Francisco’s BASIS team partnered with MAKOM). The Forum takes place relativelye early in the BASIS process and its purpose is to introduce the leaders to the key conceptual and educational pieces of the initiative, utilizing on-the-ground and true-to-life examples in Israel.
It is rare for various stakeholders of a school take trips together, let alone with the leadership of other schools. Even more rare is such a trip to Israel. Taking the schools’ BASIS leadership en masse to Israel for an Israel Education seminar or forum can have a galvanizing effect in terms of generating excitement and good will, community building, and also in terms of communicating the comprehensiveness and seriousness of the BASIS initiative.
Bringing key stakeholders to Israel for the forum can be transformative for schools that have not emphasized Israel prior to engaging with the BASIS process. For other schools, the forum can kick-start important and challenging conversations that need to take place among their constituents and which will help shape the initiative in the ensuing years.
In the first iteration of BASIS, a 5-day Israel Education forum was held in Israel for the BASIS leadership from each of the participating schools. The forum took place during the summer following the initial (preparatory) year of BASIS in the schools, and all members of the school’s BASIS Leadership Teams attended, if at all possible. The bulk of the schools’ BASIS work was yet to be done, so the Israel Summer Forum served in many ways as the initiative’s kick-off for for the entire community.
The Israel Summer was carefully planned around an overarching theme (the diversity within Zionism and Israeli society), while at the same time touching on practical issues related to the various Israel Education Strategies from which the schools would choose during their curriculum development processes. This was the perfect opportunity to expose the forum’s participants to examples of Israeli arts and culture, and to meet Israeli arts educators and arts education organizations with whom the schools could potentially work. Similarly, teams from schools considering the travel or twinning/Peoplehood strategies could visit Israeli schools ready for twinning relationships and begin to build personal connections with their faculties and administrations.
The vast majority of Bay Area’s participating schools reported that the Israel Summer Forum was a valuable component of the initiative. The degree to which the 5-day experience was leveraged at a given school depended on what its Leadership Team and Curriculum Team did with what was learned and experienced while in Israel.