Lower School

The Lower School experience is rooted in high academic expectations, and is supported by teachers who provide gentle guidance within familiar boundaries.
Classroom space is safe for risk-taking, questioning, collaboration, and rich discussion.
First-gradeย students are welcomed into warm, nurturing and inclusive classrooms as they begin their Lower School experience. This journey takes them on a path through exploration, creativity, technological experiences, intentional academics and important social and emotional achievement, and delivers them to Middle School as confident, motivated and growing learners.
Through the use of the Responsive Classroom approach, students take ownership of creating and molding the learning environment and community to best fit theirย needs. Students are encouraged to share their voices, explore their individual passions and contribute meaningfully to their classroom communities. Being part of Bernard Zell means being part of a vibrant Jewish community, where kindness and consideration of others are fundamental in our daily practices. ย Learning Hebrew, participating in rich traditions like Friday Shabbat lunch and engaging in service learning help define our mission. As educators, we join together with parents and families to create a strong, guiding force in childrenโ€™s lives, nurturing them through this special Bernard Zell journey.
Karen Leavitt
Head of Lower School

Latest News from Head of Lower School, Karen Leavitt

A Message from Karen Leavitt, Head of Lower School | May 24, 2023
Karen Leavitt, Head of Lower School

In my final communication for the 2022-23 school year, I would like to continue to share my gratitude for your loyal partnership. I have much to be thankful for this year at BZ, but at the top of my list is working together with our amazing families. Your support has been integral to the success of our program and has enabled tremendous growth for your children. It has been my absolute pleasure to help guide our Lower School this year, and I look forward to continued work next year. 

This year was thankfully without COVID restrictions, yet we continued to talk about its impact, reminding us of the importance of consistency and structure and also identifying the need for additional layers of social/emotional support throughout the year. We also pinpointed the need to help students practice sitting with difficult tasks, further developing tenacity and stamina. Kids are accustomed to hearing me say, “You can do hard things!”

Read More about A Message from Karen Leavitt, Head of Lower School | May 24, 2023
A Message from the Division Heads | April 26, 2023
Abby Aloni, Karen Leavitt and Dani Steele

Dear Bernard Zell Families,

As we begin to look toward the 2023-24 school year, we wanted to give you the opportunity to provide information, via our Divisional Parent Reflection Forms, that might help us with your child's class placement next year. This optional form is an excellent place for you to share feedback regarding your child’s experience this past year, as well as to suggest those children who you consider to be positive learning or social partners for your child and who may provide comfort during the transition.

You can be assured that we will group children together in a way that creates strong learning and social/emotional environments for all. As part of this process, we will be consulting with classroom teaching teams from the current school year to assist us with placements as they know your child best. Division Heads will consult with each other for those students who will be moving divisions for the 2023-24 school year.

Read More about A Message from the Division Heads | April 26, 2023
A Message from Karen Leavitt, Head of Lower School | March 15, 2023
Karen Leavitt, Head of Lower School

Students at every grade level are now entrenched in the act of reading and writing nonfiction as part of our Lucy Calkins Reading and Writing Curriculum. Lucy Calkins is the Founding Director of the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University in New York, and the author of the reading and writing Units of Study series, which have been an integral part of our literacy curriculum at BZ for many years.* 

Lucy says, “When we help students become powerful readers of nonfiction, we help them become powerful learners.” And so, students in grades one through four are using mentor nonfiction books to explore text features and build strategies for reading to learn.

Read More about A Message from Karen Leavitt, Head of Lower School | March 15, 2023