Tiyul Day 3- The Mighty River Jordan

By: Claudia Ballen & Rachel Nasatir

Hi from the Golan Heights!! Today our kimah (wake up call) was at 7:30. We had breakfast at Kibbutz Afik and then we split up into two groups. One group went bike riding in the Golan. The other, visited a glass blowing studio, and the ruins of an ancient temple. They were incredible experiences. Both groups went to local supermarkets to pick up some Israeli snacks for Shabbat. Some snacks being, “Bisli”, Israeli chocolate, fun chips and gummy candies, etc. We all then gathered near the “mighty” Jordan River and had lunch. We had traditional Israeli foods such as hummus, pita, chicken, and various salads. We split up into rafting groups and began our journey down the Jordan River. Although we started in specific groups, we all ended up swimming most of the way, and getting into completely different groups. At one point, Ms. Matalon had 14 kids on a boat meant for 5 or 6. At the end we all felt disgusting, but we had the best time possible! We miss you all and can't wait to share our snacks and stories with you when we get back! 

Posted on: 4/28/2017 11:36 AM Comments (0)

Tiyul Day 3-In the Heights!

By Carter Wagner, Nicole Lucas, Emma Sobel & Natalie Rosenbaum, 8th Grade Students

Today we split up into two groups with one group going to a bike ride in the Golan Heights and the other going to a glass studio. The bike ride consisted of a 12 kilometer (you can do the math) bike up and down a mountain overlooking the stunning Jordan River and mountains surrounding it. The start of the bike ride was mostly flat and we were really able to enjoy the scenic view. As the ride went on, it became much steeper, resulting in many of us walking our bikes up part of the mountain. Throughout the ride we stopped to drink water, take pictures and just to enjoy the view. We all made it to the end with no limbs broken and just a few scrapes. A good time was had by all. 

Posted on: 4/28/2017 11:30 AM Comments (0)

Tiyul Day 2-Our First Full Day in Tel Aviv

By: Jake Herman and Seth Berger, 8th Grade Students

During our first full day in the Promised Land, we went to Independence Hall, we picked strawberries, we played with kids with heart disabilities, we ate lunch in a park, we swam in the Mediterranean Sea, and we went to a Druze House. At Independence Hall, we saw where the Declaration of the State of Israel was signed, and we watched a movie about Zionism and how Israel was made. In school we had a class called Zionism, in which we learned about the creation of Israel. This activity showed us where the State of Israel was born. Then we headed into two groups, one went to pick strawberries and one went to an organization called "Save a Child's Heart." At strawberry picking, we ate strawberries and picked them to share with others. We all agreed that they were the best strawberries we have ever had. At Save a Child's Heart, we interacted with kids and played soccer and colored. Both groups headed to the park where we would eat lunch and experience Israeli culture even further. The Mediterranean Sea was our next destination. We swam, played on the beach, and swallowed a lot of salt accidentally. As a grade we got to hang out together, and we had the freedom to do whatever we wanted. We then departed to  Druze hospitality. We were taught about the Druze culture, and we learned about their role in society, specifically in the Middle East. We were served an Arabic Meal, and we socialized among our fellow peers. We now are heading to learn about more Israeli culture and bond even more at Kibbutz Afik in the Golan Heights. As it is our first time in Israel we will learn more about the passion for Israel that Israelis have.
Check out this video about our Tel Aviv Adventures!!!

Posted on: 4/28/2017 11:10 AM Comments (0)

Tiyul Day 1: Tel Aviv and Yafo

By: Lily Katz and Natalie Rosenbaum, 8th Grade Students

After our crazy airport experience and a long flight, we finally, we got to Ben Gurion airport. We were greeted by our tour guides, counselors, and Elise who made an awesome welcome sign. “Welcome home” were the first words our tour guides said as we got onto the busses. It was hard to believe that we were really here in Israel on our 8th grade tiyul. We have all been waiting for this for so many years and now we are finally here!
Upon arrival, we all shared in the amazing feeling of excitement for the upcoming experiences. Then it was off to Dr. Shakshuka for dinner. There was so much good food that kept coming to the tables. Everyone agrees that it was the best hummus we have ever eaten. Everyone was so full by the end of the meal. In addition to great food, Yaheli met us at Dr. Shakshuka which was really fun since most of us hadn't seen her in a long time. We then walked back to our hotel. We all brought our bags inside and then gathered in a room to get some directions for the next day and played some games to get to know our counselors and tour guides a little better. We then got our room assignments and headed up to our rooms for the night. It had been a long day/two days (time change makes everything confusing) and we all couldn't wait to shower and get to sleep so that we were ready for the next exciting day to come!

Posted on: 4/27/2017 10:53 AM Comments (0)

The 8th-Grade Tiyul Begins - And We're Off!

by Tiyul Faculty Chaperones

Our bags are packed and we’re off!!! We arrived at O’Hare around noon on Tuesday, thinking we’d have time to check in, relax and have a snack before our flight to Newark. Little did we know our flight would be delayed and we would end up waiting at O’Hare for almost 6 hours!!! Even though we were so excited to get on our way, we were able to entertain ourselves by reading, listening to music and playing cards. Eventually we boarded our flight and made our way to Jersey! We had to hustle through the terminal at Newark but we’re so lucky that United held our flight to give us time to get there and board. The flight was long and we were exhausted from traveling all day. Some of us were able to get some sleep but some of us were just too excited!
Check back tomorrow for more updates about our first day in the homeland!

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Posted on: 4/26/2017 3:21 PM Comments (1)

A Message on Holocaust Memorial Day

by Noah S. Hartman, Head of School

Today is Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Memorial Day, observed in Israel on this Hebrew date since the early 1950s. There are countless papers, studies, and dissertations about how to educate young children about the Holocaust, and there is no definitive approach to doing so. How could a child comprehend the depths of such evil? Should children be exposed to such darkness? To what end? In a Jewish educational environment, how can we reconcile for children the reality of what happened 75 years ago to European Jewry with the joy and promise we hope will define their own Jewish futures?
One philosophy that resonates with me about continuing in the wake of the Holocaust is that of Hans Jonas, a German-born philosopher and professor with a fascinating personal story. In his paper, "The Concept of God After Auschwitz," Jonas writes that God did not abandon humanity or cause the Holocaust to happen. Indeed, God cried and suffered alongside the victims when other human beings desecrated what was meant to be good in the world that God created.
As a Jewish day school, we have a responsibility to learn about, know about, and teach about the Holocaust. Our students are fortunate to benefit from the deep knowledge of our own Dr. Jeffrey Ellison, longtime history teacher at Bernard Zell. Dr. Elliison's thorough, scholarly, and important perspective on the teaching of the Holocaust was recently published in the peer-reviewed journal Cogent Education. You can follow this link to read his work.
For today, Yom HaShoah, I encourage us all to take a moment to reflect on the horror that millions of Jews endured and remember the richness of the lives they lived. In Israel, sirens blared around the entire country at 10:00 a.m. at which time everyone stopped what they were doing and bowed their heads in respect.
In one week, Israel observes Yom HaZikaron, its Memorial Day, followed one day later by Yom Ha'atzmaut, Israeli Independence Day. It's a powerful eight days on the Jewish calendar that we're lucky to observe as Bernard Zell family. Our 8th grade and their chaperones will be in Israel for the latter two of these days, and we wish them a safe and meaningful trip. As our students experience firsthand the history, people, and culture of Israel, we know that they will return with even stronger Jewish identities and inspired new perspectives on peace and possibility in the world.

Posted on: 4/24/2017 4:16 PM Comments (0)

Reflections from an Alumnus: Built at Bernard Zell

by Quincy Hirt, Class of 2013

"Bernard Zell is where I learned how to be a student, how to be a member of a community, how to be an athlete and team member, how to be a leader, and how to self advocate."
It’s hard to imagine that in 10 weeks, it will have been exactly four years since I walked across the stage at Bernard Zell with a diploma in my hands. My high school experience has flown by, and I can’t believe that my time at Whitney Young is almost over. It feels as if just yesterday I was still an excited 8th grader at Bernard Zell, eagerly awaiting the end of year festivities.
As with all moments of transition, one has an opportunity to reflect. So as I prepare to leave high school and my home for my gap year and then college, I have been thinking a lot about how I got here. The truth is that Bernard Zell has a lot to do with it. I spent eleven years there. It was my home away from home and where I made some of my best friends; friends who are still a part of my life despite different high schools. Bernard Zell is where I learned how to be a student, how to be a member of a community, how to be an athlete and team member, how to be a leader, and how to self advocate. It occurs to me that I was built at Bernard Zell and tested at Whitney Young. I developed the muscles at Bernard Zell and got to flex them in high school.
I consistently encounter the many different ways Bernard Zell impacted my high school years. The two most profound examples are reflected in my Jewish identity and in my leadership. I often think back to the values instilled in me by my teachers, coaches, and administrators at Bernard Zell. I don’t think I was always consciously aware of what I was learning at the time, but the education was infused with values and it shaped my identity as I left the Jewish environment and was forced to consider being Jewish in a big, diverse, urban public school.
I immediately joined Jewish Student Connection and have been the President for the past two years, taking over for my sister, Kalie, when she graduated. I have loved bringing non-Jewish friends to the club and sharing holiday traditions. I also joined Voices, which is a JUF teen philanthropy program. My four years as a participant and now a leader in this group have profoundly impacted how I think about Tzedakah, Tikkun Olam, and community engagement, concepts I was first exposed to at Bernard Zell.
I have had many opportunities to grow as a leader in high school as the President of my senior class and National Honor Society and as Captain of the Varsity Volleyball Team. Bernard Zell gave me multiple platforms to be ‘on stage’: in the classroom, on the playing field, and in performing arts; whether it was presenting about West Virginia for the 3rd grade state project or playing at City Hall with the band, performing as Pharaoh in the 8th grade Operetta, or singing Hatikvah during the Tiyul.
I see Bernard Zell’s legacy and the impact of a Bernard Zell education everyday in my life as a student, athlete and leader. I know that as I move forward to the next chapter of my education and beyond, Bernard Zell will continue to shape my experiences and influence who I am. And for that, I am grateful.

Posted on: 4/7/2017 9:15 AM Comments (0)

2017 State of the School Address

by Noah S. Hartman, Head of School

It has been an incredible year. The Chicago Cubs won the World Series for the first time in 108 years. My hometown team, the Atlanta Falcons, won 3/4 of a Super Bowl. And Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School celebrated its 70th birthday. It’s been a year of firsts, a year of surprises, and a year of milestones.
I’m pleased to now reflect on some of our achievements from the last year, and to paint a picture of our future. After 70 years, our school is stronger and more vibrant than ever: we welcome over 540 students and 120 staff members every morning. We have the most advanced academic program with the greatest educational opportunity in our history. We have wildly popular athletics and music programs, an actively engaged PTC, our largest Nursery and 8th grade classes ever, and a clear, open, pluralistic Jewish identity fostered by our Jewish Studies teachers and our intentional environment. The mission articulated in 1946 by Rabbi Solomon Goldman, our school’s founder, is largely still the mission we fulfill today:
We are an independent Jewish day school for the 21st century where academic rigor and purpose, collaborative learning, and a deep commitment to humanity develop engaged, confident learners and compassionate leaders for a stronger, more vibrant community and world.
My vision for our school, in perfect alignment with the strategic priorities of our board, is to educate, nurture, and prepare exceptional students and empathic human beings guided by Jewish values to become leaders in their communities, and to ensure a strong, vibrant school today and for generations to come.
The three overarching areas to focus on in order to achieve this vision are academics, identity, and sustainability.
Academically, we offer the very best primary Jewish education available. Our program is rigorous, experiential, and dynamic. Our teachers are innovative, expert practitioners who model inclusiveness and lifelong learning. Just yesterday, the Harvard Business Review published a fascinating article titled, “Lifelong Learning is Good For Your Health, Your Wallet, and Your Social Life.” I highly recommend the article.
Our future is in cutting-edge, inspired teaching and learning that are increasingly personalized and that exceed all typical standards. It’s in classrooms and common areas that allow for a range of teaching and learning, where students develop their multiple intelligences, hone their strengths, and exercise new talents. And it’s in the context of what will prepare our students for the best private and public high schools in Chicago.
  • Of Bernard Zell students who have gone on to public schools in the last 5 years, 99% have gone to one of top 15 high schools in Illinois, according to a 2016 U.S. News & World Report. These include Northside, Payton, Jones, Whitney Young, Lane Tech, Lincoln Park, and Evanston Township.
  • Of Bernard Zell students who have gone on to independent schools in the last 5 years, 99% have gone to 5 of the most established and respected independent schools in the city: Beacon Academy, Francis W. Parker, The Latin School, Chicago Lab School, and the Wolcott School.
And now let’s rewind for a moment: Since I stood here before you one year ago, we have enjoyed renewed excitement and growth in Early Childhood under the leadership of Abby Aloni and her spectacular team of teachers and Associate Teachers. The Early Childhood faculty has engaged in rigorous and regular professional development coalescing around the Reggio Emilia-inspired approach we know to be best practice for our youngest children. Next month, Abby and two of our Early Childhood teachers (Hagit Lewis and Lindsey Elliott) will travel on a study tour to Reggio, Italy, with the Community Foundation for Jewish Education and the Erikson Institute.
By making Bernard Zell a philanthropic priority, you enabled the physical renovation of our Early Childhood space that has had a profound impact on educational practice and attitudes already. Your leadership from the front has created the conditions in which our teachers lead their students through all kinds of spectacular experiences.
Albert Einstein said, “The only source of knowledge is experience.” Experiential learning, which is a focus of our approach at Bernard Zell, adds complexity, relevance, and the potential for deeper understanding to a more traditional curriculum, and it demands an additional skill-set that students here develop young and will apply in other settings throughout their lives.
At Bernard Zell, we have successfully increased our integration of experiential, project-based learning across the curriculum, school-wide. Just one example of this is in 4th grade, where the students were charged with creating t-shirt factories and had to determine appropriate sizes, quantities, and other characteristics that demanded multiple kinds of learning: math, writing, collaboration, communication, and more.
Many excellent schools teach “what.” We teach the appropriate “what” with a lot more “how” and “why.” That’s what makes Bernard Zell different.
Last month, our science team was published in Science Scope, the middle school magazine for the National Science Teachers Association. The publication of their unit on engineering, titled, Call The Plumber!, has already resulted in two schools (one in the U.S. and one in the U.K.) asking our teachers how they can run the unit in their schools.
I believe the future of education will live within what Clayton Christensen calls a “modular architecture,” a system—in this case, a school—in which "components fit and work together in well-understood, crisply-codified ways.” Schools must offer flexibility and customization that allow them to meet the unique needs of each student without redesigning everything else. And we will.
Next year, we’ll be working to even better customize the support, enrichment, and general approaches we take to educating every student—and challenging him or her accordingly.
We’re grateful for the investment in our Student Services that will support a new Literacy Specialist and potentially some additional related services. It is this kind of specialized resources that support all of our students in their academic and social-emotional growth.
We are also excited about introducing a robotics program at Bernard Zell next year. Just yesterday, Mark Cuban, responding to a question from a 23-year-old asking what industry he’d target today if he were just getting started, tweeted that he spends 90% of his reading time learning about machine learning, neural networks, computer vision, artificial intelligence, etc. He said, “They will dwarf the last 30 years of technology.”
Under the leadership of our science specialists, Beth Sanzenbacher and Elizabeth Holland, and in collaboration with our technology and math teams, we’ll incorporate computational thinking, mathematics, programming, and more, into our curriculum. Imagine your child programming a robot to light Chanukah candles or to write in a foreign language.
Our academic goals are lofty, measurable, and achievable, and one significant challenge of fulfilling them is finding the time to do so. This year, we adopted a block-rotation schedule in the Middle School that enabled us to schedule some longer class periods and make appropriate changes more nimbly. We are considering the same rotation in Lower School next year for the same reasons, and we are also extending school on Fridays until 3:35 during the Daylight Savings months. This means 1,000 more academic minutes for your children next year. It’s also a basic gesture to working parents that should still allow everyone to get home in time to prepare for Shabbat, one of our core values at Bernard Zell and something we hope our students experience with their families.
Bernard Zell proudly affirms the unique identity of every student, teacher, and family in our school. We base our community norms on values such as empathy and kindness, and by living those values, we create a special and unique identity as a school. We are lucky to live in a city and at a time when many of the best educational institutions espouse similar values; none of us has a monopoly on them, but our Jewish identity is fundamentally defined by them. We are our values, and our values are us.
We are a Community of Kindness. We aren’t perfect, and as human beings we can always improve—think Growth Mindset!—but we must be accountable to each other to practice these norms. Every morning in every class, our students and teachers greet one another with eye contact and a different greeting. In combination with other strategies and elements of our social-emotional curriculum, this direct behavior instruction makes a difference. We teach our values explicitly through our Jewish heritage and tradition. For example, our 7th grade studied models of Jewish leadership from biblical characters including Joshua, Deborah, and others, and then created books using color and abstract shapes inspired by the work their teachers did with renowned Jewish artist David Moss.
This year, our new Associate Head of School, Michael Kahn, has established a behavior task force that is working to refine and articulate our philosophy and protocols related to discipline. Based on both anecdotal information and data from last spring’s Parent Survey, we know that many parents don’t know what our policies are or whether we implement them in a given situation. The task force is addressing these issues directly and will recommend where our protocols should be modified, and better ways to communicate information to parents. Bigger picture, behavioral norms are part of our overall educational philosophy, and our work is trained on helping students understand their relationship to each other.
In order to keep educating and nurturing the Jewish leaders of tomorrow, we need to ensure financial sustainability for the future. Our Board of Trustees is serious about its fiduciary responsibility and is committed to fiscal planning that provides the best education for students today and long into the future.
My vision for a sustainable future includes (1) a fair and rewarding compensation structure that helps us attract and retain the very best educators; (2) a facility that supports what we know about best-practice elementary & middle education today and into the future; and (3) an endowment that helps us fund these priorities without major tuition increases or fees. Plans for further fulfilling each of these priorities are well underway.
In order to bring this to fruition, we all need to continue leading from the front. The impact of this leadership will mean the fulfillment of our vision to provide the very best educational program, teachers, and environment for our kids, as well as the best preparation for wherever they go from here. With your support, we’ll remain sustainable while still being able to put so much into our children’s experience.
Thanks to your investment through the Annual Campaign, we have made significant improvements in the past few years and have been able to fuel growth beyond just the status quo. This year, over 100 students are receiving some degree of tuition assistance. Over 115 students are participating in athletics. 110 students are playing band instruments, and another 40 are playing guitar. We have increased and improved security, leading to praise by local law enforcement for being the most secure school they’ve seen in the city. We have renovated the Lower School science lab and the entire Early Childhood corridor in ways that have directly and instantaneously improved the student experience. We have received almost a dozen new endowment commitments. And all of this is thanks to you. Your investment matters, it has a profound impact on our children, and as always,we remain committed to responsible stewardship.
Thank you also for your trust and your partnership. There is nothing more important than our children, and it’s a privilege for us to play a central role in helping them become the successful, creative, independent, empathic global citizens and Jewish Americans who will be leading our community into the future. Bernard Zell is an exceptional school with almost 70 years of high-achieving alumni making a positive impact on the world. Everything we do and every decision we make are centered on their best interests and setting them up for success.
Thank you for joining us tonight, and thank you for allowing us to be a part of your family’s Jewish and educational journeys. You are our school’s best ambassadors. Please help us continue growing by carrying the flag and sharing your stories with friends. In partnership, the next 70 days, weeks, and years will be even stronger and more vibrant than the last.

Posted on: 2/23/2017 10:31 AM Comments (0)

Supporting Our Philosophy on Math Teaching & Learning

by Jen Levy, Math Instructional Leader

Bernard Zell’s balanced math program provides the combination of factual/procedural fluency, conceptual depth, and problem solving skills that allows our students to succeed at high levels in school and beyond. We believe factual/procedural fluency (facts and skills) should stem from conceptual understanding rather than rote memorization. In the 21st century, it is important for our students to develop number sense and be thinkers and problem solvers not just memorizers and human calculators. Please read my other blog posts to gain a fuller picture of our philosophy and how we enact it. For more information and research to support our math philosophy, please see the following articles:

Posted on: 2/10/2017 9:18 AM Comments (0)

A Focus on Expeditionary Learning

by Meghan Breyer, 2nd Grade Teacher and Expeditionary Learning Coach

“We can’t first build the students’ self-esteem and THEN focus on their work. It is through their own work that their self-esteem will grow.” --Ron Berger, An Ethic of Excellence: Building a Culture of Craftsmanship
It was this quote from Ron Berger that first caught my attention as an educator and led me to immerse myself in every piece of literature and resource I could find about Expeditionary Learning, a teaching mode that falls under the umbrella of project-based learning. What is project-based learning? Quite simply it is a mode of teaching in which students acquire academic and life-worthy skills while investigating an important topic, problem, or question over an extended period of time. Expeditionary Learning is one form of this type of teaching. It distinguishes itself from other versions of PBL with its focus on student-driven learning and an emphasis on producing high quality work for an authentic audience, one that extends beyond the school walls. Rushton Hurley, the founder and executive direction of succinctly states, “If students are sharing their work with the world, they want it to be good. If they’re just sharing it with you, they want it to be good enough.” It is this knowledge that their work will be shared with a real world audience that fosters in students a vested interest in their work that drives them to produce work that exceeds their preconceived notion of their own potential.
Additionally, Expeditionary Learning nourishes collaboration among peers, encouraging students to work together toward a common goal and problem solve through the good struggles they encounter along the way. Students’ varying ability levels are taken into account consistently throughout each expedition, while still pushing students to create high quality work of which they are proud. Opportunities for this peer collaboration include critiquing each other’s work in an established safe and respectful environment, working together to identify criteria of high quality work in order to assess their own progress, and delegating responsibilities to ensure that each piece of the puzzle is completed and completed well.
Last year was my first formal foray into the Expeditionary Learning teaching model, and I saw firsthand how it energized our 2nd-grade classrooms. By giving students more autonomy and responsibility, I watched in amazement as they rose to and eventually surpassed my expectations. My fourteen hardworking 2nd graders produced podcasts about animals in the cat family that were eventually aired on a local radio show. Students worked for four months, researching, writing, revising at least ten or eleven times, rehearsing endlessly and even working with an actor to polish their on-air personalities. They used technology in authentic ways to record their podcasts, acting as editors of their own recordings similar to how employees at a radio station would edit commercial sound bytes.
The biggest takeaway for me circles back to Berger’s quote that I cited at the beginning of this post: my students left 2nd grade with not only an understanding of 21st century skills, but also a degree of confidence that was truly astonishing. Expeditionary Learning promotes student engagement and creates learners who possess the ability to think critically, communicate effectively, and create high quality work that contributes to the betterment of their community.

Posted on: 12/16/2016 12:14 PM Comments (0)
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