Middle School at Bernard Zell offers a time for students to embark on the path to their true selves. Our Middle School offers 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 our advisory program. As we support students’ self-discovery, we also practice kol Yisrael arevim zeh ba zeh—the value 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, students develop critical thinking skills by participating in unique grade level experiences that let them delve deeply into ideas and themes from a variety of perspectives.
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 our nation’s capital 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, food justice, or sustainability. They learn about these topics in class and during service such as visiting the elderly, partnering with community gardens or developing readers guides for important literature.
The invitation to explore their Jewish identity in eighth grade with the Tiyul (journey), a two-week experience in Israel that one student described as “making aliyah for two weeks!” Students further expand their connection with Israel through the annual mifgash (encounter), when our 8th-grade students host Israeli 8th-grade students for a unique week of shared learning and activities. This connection is strengthened when our 8th-grade class reconnects with their 8th-grade peers during Tiyul.
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. Equally as important, our graduates leave with the courage, tenacity, passion and empathy to connect with all whom they interact and year after year return to a place they will forever call home!