Discover Israel Program: An Integrated K-10 Curriculum for Jewish Students Outside the Day School System, Australia
Name of implementing organization:NSW Board of Jewish Education, Academy BJE
Date of initial project approval:February 2006
Brief description of the local Jewish community
The Jewish population of Australia numbers 100,000 - 120,000. While more than 90% of the Australian Jews live in the urban areas of Sydney and Melbourne, there are significant numbers in smaller communities throughout the country. The Jewish community is largely traditional and strongly identifies with and supports Israel.
The Jewish population of New South Wales numbers approximately 45,000, including 6,500 Jewish children of school age. The NSW Board of Jewish Education is the oldest Jewish educational institution in Sydney and reaches approximately 2,000 children. The community has developed an impressive system of 5 Jewish day schools - Moriah College, Mount Sinai College, Emanuel School, Masada College, Kesser Torah College – representing approximately 3,500 children.
Project aims and objectives
· To develop a systematic, spiral Israel curriculum for Jewish students in public and private schools outside the Jewish day school system, Years K-10
· To expose students to authentic Israel experiences, with Israel visitors to their schools and extra-curricular events, with the goal of a group Israel study visit at the end of Year 10 if funding becomes available
· To strengthen students’ Jewish identity via identification with Israel
· To promote awareness of current Israeli issues
· To develop an extensive in-service training component to upgrade teachers’ knowledge and methodology for teaching Israel
The project is developing a systematic Israel curriculum for grades K-10, which will be integrated into Hebrew and Jewish Studies educational programs. The curriculum is intended for religious education classes in government primary and secondary schools, for Hebrew language classes in government schools, for Sunday (supplementary) school classes, and for secondary Jewish Student Network (youth group) classes. It will include the following topics: the History of Israel; Israel and the Bible; Israel and Prayer; the Geography of Israel; the People of Israel; the Israeli Political System; Israeli Culture; Hebrew Language, Literature, and Song; and Israel Programs for Australians.
An Israel Studies Coordinator works 16 hours per week overseeing development of the new curriculum. The team implementing the project also includes a Head of Jewish Studies, a Coordinator of Hebrew, a Resource Officer, a Hebrew Researcher, SRE teachers who pilot the newly developed curriculum, and an Information and Technology Developer.
The project includes teacher training which is comprised of approximately 3 hours per term, during the course of two years. The training program includes the curriculum content, teaching methodology, and implementation strategies. It is conducted by the BJE Israel Studies Coordinator, Principal, Head of Jewish Studies, Hebrew Coordinator, and Resource Officer.
Lessons developed for this project are placed on the BJE website. The applicant anticipates that they will be accessed by students working within the context of school classes, as well as by students working alone or with their parents.
The process of developing the new curriculum began in April, 2006. Approximately 5 months was devoted to identification and assessment of existing Israel-related materials in the current BJE curriculum, mapping Israel resources in the Sydney community, and researching Israel curriculum material world-wide. Development of the formal and informal Israel curriculum for grades K-10, and creation of sample curriculum sets, commenced in October, 2006 and should be completed by February 2008.
The curriculum units are being piloted in classrooms, and teacher training began in 2007. The curriculum will be officially launched in May 2008 with the celebrations of Israel’s 60th.
New Israel programs have been initiated with an Israel Fair to introduce high school students to Israel programs. A year 10 Israel Experience was piloted in December 2007/January 2008.
Main budget elements
The main budget elements have been the staffing of the curriculum development team, and the purchasing of resources.
The project's successes
This project has focused the attention of BJE educators on student needs in relation knowledge, understanding and connectedness to Israel. The project has resulted in upgrading materials in the BJE Resource and Pedagogic Center and on-line, as well asstrengthening teacher training in this area.
Implementation of the curriculum in a pilot phase in the classroom has been positive. Informal programs, such as a Shabbaton and an exciting new Israel Experience for Year 10 students from government and on-government schools have been extremely successful.
The curriculum development is in its final stages and teacher training is on-going and will continue after the funding period, as different elements of the curriculum are introduced.
Through development of the curriculum, closer relationships have been forged with local Israel organizations.
Ultimately the measure of success will be the level of increased knowledge, understanding and awareness of Israel by students, and the impact on their Jewish identity and relationship with Israel.
Difficulties encountered along the way
There was a need to replace the Project Coordinator. However, the BJE was fortunate to have secured another person who was part of the original team, highly capable, and dedicated to the project's completion.
To fully pilot such a broad and spiral curriculum, will take a couple of years. Further assessment and redevelopment will need to take place as evaluations are received. This will require on-going staffing and will need to be managed carefully in relation to time and budget.