Cultural outreach at BASIS

In a socially and economically globalized world, the need to be culturally aware has increased dramatically. That’s why BASIS Independent Brooklyn, a private school located in Red Hook, has unrolled a new curriculum designed to expand student cultural awareness.

“We wanted to build a program around international and cultural awareness,” says BASIS Head of School Hadley Ruggles. “We wanted students to look outside of their own world beyond their zip code, community and family.”

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) recently issued a report on global competency, which noted that “If young people are to co-exist and interact with people from other faiths and countries, open and flexible attitudes, as well as the values that unite us around our common humanity, will be vital.”

In the classroom, BASIS students will look at themes of family, community, and heritage. They will also be connecting with students in other BASIS network classrooms in the US and China.

Jo Goldfarb, director of communications at BASIS, explained that these programs will be present in all classrooms. Last month, for instance, kindergarteners spent several weeks sharing images of their home, their family, and their stories with students in Shenzhen, China.

The middle school students have also been active with the program. In December, they completed a “Cultural Ambassadors” project in collaboration with Columbia University. The students performed in short video talks in which they explored either their own culture or another culture present at BASIS.

In the videos, students discussed topics relevant to a specific culture, government, or place. Examples included pollution in Chinese cities and New Delhi, political policy in China, and the Syrian refugee crisis.

Goldfarb noted that this program aims to “to cultivate empathy and understanding for 21st century learners about to enter an increasingly interconnected marketplace.”
And while BASIS’s new programs spend a good deal of time looking outward at the world, Goldfarb added that “the diverse cultures that make up Red Hook has been a big part of the discussion.”

BASIS’ cultural ambassadors working with the graduate students on their presentations.