For most adolescents, grades five through eight are a time to embark on the path to their true selves. This is especially true at Bernard Zell, where our Middle School is a developmentally responsive environment that promotes healthy academic, social and emotional growth in a community of Jewish life and learning.
Our middle school students are uniquely nurtured thanks to a partnership of parents, teachers, and an individualized advisory program. But as we support children’s self-discovery, we also practice kol Yisrael arevim zeh ba zeh—that we are all responsible for one another. Middle Schoolers at Bernard Zell learn trust, respect, and individual and community responsibility in addition to core Jewish values of tikkun olam (healing of the world), gemilut chasadim (acts of loving kindness), tzedakah (charity and justice) and tzelem elohim (treating ourselves and others with dignity and respect).
With this strong base of support, students are better equipped to translate high academic expectations into results, following a curriculum that is relevant, challenging, integrative and exploratory, in a small-class setting that allows them to better understand their subjects as well as each other. At each grade level, they develop critical thinking skills by participating in one enrichment class that lets them delve into ideas and themes from a variety of perspectives. Instead of grades, students receive feedback only for these courses, giving them more freedom to explore each topic.
Enrichment Class Topics Include:
- Mysteries of the Universe (a science-based investigative course)
- Film Study (in both English and Israeli films)
- Great Books (a critical look at intriguing short stories)
- Yoga (for physical and mental strength)
- Hebrew Improv! (a Hebrew-based drama improv course)
Every middle school class also has the opportunity to learn outside of school during trips to Chicago’s museums and institutes, to state forest preserves or overnight camps, and to the Illinois capitol of Springfield, to expand their horizons and apply lessons in a “real world” setting. And then there's service learning—it’s not a buzzword at Bernard Zell, but a robust program where students are assigned a theme such as aging and memory, hunger, or sustainability. They learn about these topics in class and during service such as visiting the elderly or packing meals at the local food pantry.
Through this rich environment of community, core curriculum, athletics, and self-discovery, Bernard Zell graduates are exceptionally well prepared to excel during their high school years. Our students graduate from Middle School with the essential knowledge, skills and habits to succeed in Chicago's highly competitive college preparatory high schools, bolstered by a strong Jewish identity. Graduates are recognized as student leaders with powerful academic foundations and good characters, prized by the area’s most highly selective high schools.