This is part two in a three-part blog series from The iCenter for Israel Education, sharing its approach to working closely with day schools and camps to create effective Israel education experiences for learners.
By Dvora Goodman and Aliza Goodman
In our last post, we introduced a holistic approach to Israel education and described part of the process of implementing this type of approach in day schools and camps. In both of these settings, this approach requires teamwork–between Israelis and North Americans, between school/camp leadership and educators/counselors, and among educators/counselors themselves–each bringing to the team their unique relationships with Israel, and an understanding that nearly any experience can be an opportunity for Israel education. In this post, we dive deeper into the process of setting goals and share examples of learning outcomes, demonstrating how both goals and desired outcomes guide schools and camps in making programmatic decisions.
Everyone Should Ask “Why?”
Although most schools and camps are actively engaged in Israel education to varying degrees, the educational leadership in these settings rarely takes the time to articulate why they are doing it. Yet, this why is crucial because it keeps leadership teams driven and focused on their educational priorities. It serves as a “north star” for making educational choices, ensuring strong and integrated learning experiences. This why serves as the basis for the development of a vision–an aspirational statement, a specific articulation that will guide educational decisions about Israel, create shared language among educators, and be readily translated into learning outcomes. Going through a process of visioning challenges the leadership and educators to address key questions such as: What do we mean by the term “Israel?” What is the significance of Israel in the context of the school or camp’s larger vision? What is the significance of Israel to Jewish life in general? All of these questions clearly connect back to the big question of why?
Connected to a vision are learning outcomes. These are understood in this context as general overarching statements articulating the important ideas that we want our learners to grasp over time. They are meant to be expressions of the vision in measurable and observable ways. For example, a vision might include the following sentiment: “[Our graduates] will be conversant in the history, politics and culture of the modern state of Israel and understand its complexities. They will know that life in Israel is not homogeneous or single minded – that it is a beautifully woven tapestry with the colors and textures of many kinds of people from different backgrounds.” One learning outcome connected to this might be, “Learners will encounter and experience modern Israel as a complex and evolving nation with multiple narratives.”
How are We Going to Get There? Alignment of all Areas of Israel Education
Articulating a vision and selecting a few targeted learning outcomes helps a school and a camp make decisions – both in the short term and in the future – about what the educational experience will consist of and how success is measured moving forward. A vision and learning outcomes also help ensure that all aspects of the educational experience are aligned and work together to propel them toward shared goals. As part of our process, we work closely with schools and camps to identify areas where Israel can be brought in anew, and to make sure that the areas where Israel already exists are aligned with the vision for why Israel is important for the learner’s experience in the first place. This is the “real work” of strengthening and infusing Israel throughout an educational program.
For example, a school we worked with identified one of its overarching learning outcomes as, “Students will have the tools to engage in productive dialogue about Israel, considering multiple perspectives.” When the educational team went back and looked at what they were teaching year to year, they realized that there was no way they would be able to achieve this outcome without making changes. This was because the Israel that was being presented – until that time – reflected only one perspective. Committed to this aspect of their vision, the team is now engaged in a close examination of the materials being used in the classroom and beyond at all grade levels to ensure that they are, in fact, representing multiple perspectives and encouraging students to explore them.
As another example, a camp we work with identified one of its learning outcomes as, “By engaging in current, relevant learning about Israel, campers and staff will understand that Israel is complex and evolving, and that their own life long relationship with Israel may also be complex and evolving.” Through this articulation, they realized that previously the Israel that was being explored by staff and campers was the same each summer and did not challenge them to deepen and evolve their relationships with Israel. This has led them to develop a curricular framework that includes broad themes for exploration at different age groups in camp, each one inviting staff and campers to re-examine their relationships with Israel in new ways. As they go through this program each summer, they will learn more and continue to understand Israel’s multifaceted nature.
Stay tuned for part 3 of this series in which we explore what day schools and camps can learn from each other and how they might sustain their success into the future.
If you are interested in learning more, please visit https://www.theicenter.org/initiative/israel-camp-intensive or contact Aliza at Aliza@theicenter.org.
This article was initially posted on the Avi Chai Foundation’s blog. Click here to view the original.