Curriculum development is at the heart of BASIS. Creation and delivery of Israel education curriculum consumes the largest amount of time and effort of the participating schools. No matter which educational strategies (formal or informal) a school chooses to pursue, Israel Education cannot take place without the deliberate curricularization of those strategies.
Everyone in the school community is involved in curriculum in one way or another, be it visioning, mapping, designing, delivering, evaluating, or receiving it. The Leadership Team establishes the Israel Education vision that will drive the entire curriculum development process. The Curriculum Team focuses its entire work on methodically and intentionally creating the school’s Israel education curriculum. The BASIS Coordinator, with the Head of School’s support, spends most of her time and energy on spearheading the curriculum development effort. The faculty as a whole must buy into the new (or revised) Israel Education curriculum, implementing and assessing it. The students and parents are, of course, are on the receiving end of the curriculum as learners, participants and recipients.
The BASIS Curriculum Development Consultant, with the support of the Israel Education Strategies Specialists (Twinning & Travel, Arts& Culture, etc.) and Manchim, guides the schools through a multi-step curriculum development process over the course of the initiative. As curriculum development is by nature ongoing, it does not end when initial BASIS funding terminates. Schools must include support for this continued curriculum work as part of their long-term BASIS sustainability plans.
The Curriculum Development process has several key components. As a first step, the school’s Leadership Team creates an Israel Education Vision Statement that will inform curriculum development. Concurrently or shortly thereafter, the Curriculum Team maps the school’s existing Israel Education offerings using a technological tool such as ATLAS. It is essential for the school to know what it actually has in terms of Israel Education before either making changes or creating completely new curriculum. BASIS is about building on what already exists in situ, as opposed to coming in and imposing a specific curriculum whose genesis is outside the school.
Following this, the Curriculum Team engages in backward planning using the Understanding By Design (UBD) approach. Initially, it parses the Vision Statement to articulate learning outcomes. It does so by establish enduring understandings and essential questions for Israel Education in the school. If the members of the team are not yet familiar with the UBD approach to curriculum development, BASIS provides them with the requisite training—either by the BASIS Curriculum Consultant, or by sending team members to UBD professional development workshops, or both.
The establishment of the enduring understandings and essential questions enables the team to move on to the next step, which is the development of a curricular scope and sequence covering all grades in the school.
As this work progresses, decisions need to be made as to which educational strategies (or pedagogies) are best suited to reaching the desired outcomes and meshing with the newly established scope and sequence. Options to consider include: Arts & Culture; Israel Travel; Twinning & Partnerships; Shlichut; Service Learning; Family Education; Jewish Peoplehood studies—or any combination thereof.
Finally, curricular units are devised to deliver the content that corresponds to the articulated learning outcomes. As per the UBD method, this also includes built-in means of assessing student learning and mastery of content. These curricular units and attendant learning activities may be self-directed, classroom based, school based, or community based (including Israel).
A great deal of thought must be given as to how to best integrate informal and experiential learning opportunities with more formal education ones. For instance, BASIS schools do not simply send their students on an Israel trip. Not only is the travel itinerary carefully thought out, but it is most importantly closely tied to the learning the students have done in all the grades leading up to the trip, and to that which they will do in the grades following the trip. This curricularization does not only pertain to the students who travel to Israel, but also to the other students in the school. For instance, many schools turn the trip into an opportunity for older students to teach younger students about Israel by requiring them to formally share what they learned and experienced in Israel with the lower grades, or with families at a school-wide event.
The entire school faculty is critical to the delivery and assessment of the curricular units, serving as a key component in a feedback loop that allows for the refining of the curriculum over time.
While the BASIS Curriculum Consultant and Manchim may work with the schools more on the bigger picture pieces such as mapping, scope and sequence and outcome articulation, it is the Strategies Specialist (and sometimes also the Manchim) who work on the more granular level in developing detailed units, lessons and learning activities and experiences. The BASIS Educational Resources & Mapping Specialist assists in both the mapping work, as well as in providing content and materials for unit and lesson planning.