Image of Palestinian at Notredame

Curriculum Overview

The Palestinian Nakba curriculum offers us the opportunity to learn about the robust Palestinian society that existed prior to the Nakba (catastrophe), the critical events leading up to and during 1948, and a prism through which to understand the ongoing nature of the Nakba and its impact on Palestinian lives.

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The curriculum includes eight core sessions, and an intro and closing session. It is accompanied by an in-depth Facilitator Guide for educators or others teaching or leading a session or class.  Each session builds upon the one before it, but is also designed with the option of entering at different places based on the needs of each group.

Tracks offer activity and session configurations specific to a particular group, ie. High School, community education, activist organizations. Based on the group that you are part of, learning with, or facilitating for, you might choose to use a specific track that pulls together different parts of the curriculum for easier or more accessible use. 

Modules are theme-specific and offer curricula and resources to engage with a particular issue or area of study (eg. Settler Colonialism, Refugees Rights, Zionism, etc). Our modules can stand alone and can also be used in conjunction with any other part of the curriculum. 

The Palestinian Nakba curriculum can be adapted in many different ways—for individual classes, for semester-long learning, as theme-specific modules, for presentations, and for workshops and webinars. It is designed for online as well as for in-person learning.

The curriculum was created in partnership with PARCEO, a resource and education center that partners with community groups, universities, and other institutions seeking to deepen their community education, organizing, research, and cultural work for justice.  PARCEO is grounded in principles of Participatory Action Research (PAR), a framework for engaging in research and organizing for justice that is rooted in a community’s own knowledge, wisdom, and experience.

The Palestinian Nakba curriculum was designed using a popular education and PAR framework—a pedagogy that values and honors the experience, knowledge, and leadership of those most impacted by injustice as we collectively work for transformative change. The centrality of Palestinian voices in our Nakba curriculum is critical to this process. PAR pedagogy also recognizes that, in this process, we are all teachers and learners.

The PAR approach is particularly helpful in the facilitation of the The Palestinian Nakba Curriculum because it allows for participatory and experiential engagement with the material, and with each other, during the sessions.


Jerusalem from the tower of Notre Dame Photo Credit: G. Eric & Edith Matson Collection

Bedouin, 1898

Opening Session

The Opening Session offers an introduction to the curriculum and its visual themes and can be used at the beginning of Session 1 or preceding any session or module to welcome the group, introduce participants to the session(s), and set community agreements.

Image of Palestinians in exile

The Nakba

This session offers an exploration of the historical context that resulted in the Nakba, including the expulsion and dispossession of Palestinians from their land, along with the erasure of Palestinan life and culture. Participants begin to understand the impact of settler colonialism on the Palestinian people. The richness and complexity of pre-1948 life in Palestine is juxtaposed with the impact of the Balfour Declaration and Britain’s support for a Jewish national home in Palestine.

Manshiyak Quarter, May 1948

Nakba in Practice

In this session, participants consider the history and material consequences of the Nakba, including what’s been hidden and erased, what’s been built over, stolen, destroyed, and what remains. Concepts of Indigeneity, settler colonialism, and cultural identity are explored in relation to Palestine as is the role of British imperialism.

Quosiy Burqan

Ongoing Nakba

In this session, participants examine the ongoing displacement of Palestinians from their homes and land prior to and in 1947­/48, 1967, and that continues to the present. These ongoing realities are shown through different forms of information, including graphs that trace demographic and population shifts in both cities and villages; maps that depict changes in ownership and control of land; and stories that illustrate how these changes were not incidental, but connected to intentional processes of ethnic cleansing that impact the lives of Palestinians and their families, then and now.

Photo Illustration By Elizabeth Brockway

Zionism: Foundation & Intentions

This session, presented in Slideshow format, exhibits the foundations and intentions of Zionism, the enactment and reality of Zionist colonization in Palestine, and the historical context for Palestinian opposition to Zionism. Excerpts from speeches and writings of Zionist and Israeli leaders illustrate the intentionality of the process. The session also addresses the pervasive Zionist narrative that continues to “justify” the Nakba, despite clear and compelling facts, historical documentation, and experiences of Palestinians.

Old image of group of women

Testimony & Storytelling as History

This session presents life stories as historical events with an understanding that testimony, oral history, memory, and storytelling shape and are a critical part of history. The stories shared in this session specifically focus on what life was like before and during 1948 and offer accounts that are critical to the understanding of what and who has been omitted from historical accounts. Participants also conceptualize and reflect on what “testimony” means, and challenge notions of what constitutes “truth” and the historical record.

Palestinian sign

Archive as Power

This session offers a look into archives, what constitutes an archive, what they contain, how they are constructed, and why. Participants engage in close readings of “archival” texts and consider the ways that a Palestinian archive, or an archive framed around the history of Palestine, is necessarily constructed from sources– images, texts, objects– that were not only created and compiled, but omitted, extracted, destroyed, and stolen.

Humanitarian Aid for Palestinians

Refugees & The Right of Return

In this session participants take a sharp look at the right of return for Palestinian refugees who were expelled from their homes and land. Through data, stories, legal documents, artistic renderings, among other forms of expression, participants deepen their understanding of the realities and impact of expulsion and dispossession and the envisioning and practicalities of a return home.

Gaza return march

Ongoing Resistance

This session explores ongoing social, political, economic, and cultural forms of resistance in Palestine. Through a look at different forms of resistance– current and historical as well as transnational, national, and local– participants understand the impact, visions, and connections among movements for justice in Palestine and globally.

Anniversary of the Nakba, May 2017

Closing Session

This session can be used at the end of a series/course or added to the end of any session. This Closing offers a reflection on the session(s) as a whole and considers how what we’ve learned has impacted our thinking and how we might want to take action.

Old image of Palestinians in exile

High School & Young Learners

Palestinian refugees sit inside their tent in the newly formed Ein El Hilweh refugee camp, Lebanon. © 1948 UN Archives Photo by Myrtle Winter Chaumeny

Study Groups with Zionism Background

16 year old Fawzi al-Junaidi is beaten, blindfolded and arrested by Israeli soldiers at a protest in Hebron on December 7, 2017. Wisam Hashlamoun, Flash90

Learning Within Social Justice Groups 

Palestinians in exile, October, 1948

Settler Colonialism & Palestine

This module hones in on settler colonialism conceptually as well as in practice across the globe, and then looks at how we can understand Palestine within a settler colonialist framework, not just historically but how it is ongoing – rooted in Israel’s structures, policies and systems of oppression. The module can be entirely facilitated through the featured Slideshow & Notes.

Ben Gurion declares State of Israel


This module outlines the historical trajectory of Zionism from its foundation and up through the creation of the state. It makes clear the goals and intentions of the Zionist movement, as well as highlights its impact on, and resistance from, the Indigenous Palestinian population living there.