Welcome from Rebecca Bloom, Admissions & Marketing Associate
Rebecca Bloom knows first hand the value of a Jewish day school education. Her own experience at Saul Mirowitz Jewish Community School in St. Louis introduced her to joyful Jewish learning, and inspired her to take on leadership roles in high school and at Indiana University where she was an advertising and Jewish studies major, and a singer in Hooshir Jewish Acapella. She also sang and danced with Singing Hoosiers and worked for IU’s office of admissions. She has spent the past 13 summers at OSRUI where she first met and was impressed by the way BZ students stand apart from their peers for their leadership and kindness.
She can't wait to meet you and your children! If you have any questions about the admissions process, Rebecca would be happy to answer any questions you may have. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 773.572.1292.
Inspired by the Mexican painter, Frida Kahlo, Bernard Zell eighth grade artists explored facets of their identity, life experiences and values through art. The students learned a method for drawing their faces in the correct proportions and also explored how to create and integrate imagery, symbols and a background setting that would represent their ideas and tell their personal story. The students mastered working in oil pastels for a layered and textured effect. In an inner "frame" the students added a statement from either a wise older person in their family, a line from a beloved book, lyrics from a song or the words of someone they admire.
Please enjoy these vibrant and creative expressions of our students' identity by clicking the button below!
The curriculum in fourth grade's Room 302 this year will be assisted by our partnership with The Nora Project to support social-emotional learning in the classroom. The Nora Project is a non-profit organization whose mission is to teach empathy by sparking friendships between students and their peers with disabilities. The organization teaches three essential questions that fourth graders will explore and engage with for a variety of lessons and activities.
1. Why is there no such thing as “normal?”
2. Why do we share our stories?
3. What does it mean to be a good friend?
Everyone experiences the world differently and has their own unique strengths and challenges. They are daughters and sons, brothers and sisters, actors and athletes and poets and advocates. They are not defined by their disabilities, but oftentimes their disabilities do impact the way they experience the world. It is helpful to understand this range of other possible experiences so that we can demonstrate empathy to all people. This also helps us recognize how our strengths and challenges compliment one another and allow us to work together to accomplish great things!
Students in the eighth grade's Reading Workshop are currently reading To Kill a Mockingbird. While studying the classic coming-of-age novel, students are beginning to develop and sharpen their discussion and analytical skills. This week, all three eighth-grade sections planned and participated in a Socratic seminar about part one of the novel.
In a Socratic seminar, meaningful, student-led conversations are designed to encourage students to help one another understand the ideas, issues and values reflected in a text through a group discussion format. They challenge our eldest BZ students to examine and analyze the language to deepen their understanding and stretch their thinking. It is so magical to witness a group of young adults working together to decipher symbolism and analyze how a setting influences characters’ beliefs and actions. So many students had lightbulb “AHA” moments this week!
As their teacher, I am not only looking at how independently or deeply they can comprehend a text. I am also focused on how they communicate their learning. Are they backing up their ideas with evidence? Are they able to revise their thinking based on new information? Do they recognize the value of learning from others? Do they take a chance in facilitating a discussion or asking an original question? After each Socratic seminar, students reflect on their participation and set a goal for the next discussion. Some of these goals include:
“My goal is to prepare more specific questions to ask the group. I also want to participate more and refer to quotes and the text more. I also hope to invite/include others in the conversation more often.”
“I hope to share the ‘airtime’ more and encourage others to speak up.”
“My goal for the next Socratic seminar is to come with prepared questions and thoughts and organized notes. I will do this by making a list of questions after I finish reading each chapter.”
“Next time I will challenge not only other people's thoughts but also my own. I will do this by adding on to people's ideas and coming prepared with new follow-up questions.”
“My goal for the next Socratic seminar is to help everyone stay on track. I can do this by restating questions or asking people to elaborate when we are getting off-topic or distracted from understanding the book more deeply.”
The beauty of these Socratic seminars proves that it helps students grow not only as an individual but also as a class. When reflecting on the experience, 97% of students agreed that they treated all other participants with dignity and respect. And 93% reported that their group was able to take the Socratic seminar to a higher level of understanding. This is a new style of collaboration for our students as they collaborate to make meaning.
We will have plenty more of these Socratic seminars in Reading Workshop this year, about a lot of different texts! I can’t wait for eighth-grade parents to participate in our Family Book Club this spring—they will be blown away at just how confidently and expertly the eighth graders can analyze a challenging text!
The Nursery classrooms have been working hard to learn, explore and experience their classroom kehillah. Kehillah is the Hebrew word for community. It is the focus on a group of people who share in the mitzvah of taking care of one another, as well as partaking in the joy of their celebrations. From the beginning of the year, it was introduced to the students that our classroom is a kehillah, working together to make the individuals within the Nursery class a whole unit.
Last week, both Nursery classes introduced the idea of naming their classroom, helping to promote unity, identity and ownership within their kehillah. At our morning meetings, each student had the opportunity to use their voice while voting for a new class name. Each student shared their idea and then they narrowed down the suggestions to their top four favorites. The next day at their morning meeting, the students had the opportunity to vote on the name that they felt represented their kehillah the best. Once all the students voted, the new class name was revealed. Nursery A was named eyrtzim, which means trees, and Nursery B was named keshet kohavim which is rainbow stars.
Joining together as a kehillah, they were asked to place a hand on their heart as they repeated the class promise:
We take care of ourselves.
We take care of each other.
We take care of the world.
As the year progresses, we look forward to the myriad opportunities the eytzim and keshet kochavim classes will have to bring light and love to the world around them!
Students in Nursery through eighth grade are invited to begin collecting plastic caps/squeeze pouch caps, small lids and more! We will be using these caps for a school-wide tikkun olam (repairing the world) project at our school that will be educational, eye-opening and will have a meaningful impact for years to come.
We need caps of all colors! Collection boxes will be located in the Learning Lab where classes will sort the caps by color and eventually get a final count of all that we've collected as a community. Our goal is to have ten thousand caps within the next two weeks. Thank you for your partnership in this important recycling project.
Dear Middle School Families,
This year as leaders across the school, one of our goals is to increase our observation of teaching and learning to provide requested feedback by classroom teachers as they prepare and provide meaningful daily lessons for students. One way of engaging in thoughtful observation is by taking a learning walk. A learning walk is often best conducted with a group to promote dialogue around a single focus or framing question. On my most recent walk, I visited classrooms across the Middle School thinking about the question “What common bonds do we see in content across humanities classes in the Middle School?”
I started with a conversation with Mrs. Shosh Bernstein, our eighth-grade Jewish Studies and Hebrew Teacher. Mrs. Bernstein is in the process of launching a Jewish Identity Roots project calling on eighth-graders to investigate the question “What is my Judaism?” She began the project with a survey full of questions to ask students to dive into who they were. Interestingly enough, one student felt that a doorway opened when they were able to name Judaism as a feeling of belonging and traditions. Just as students are growing their thinking, Mrs. Bernstein is pushing herself to think about if it may be possible for her students to each create their own virtual museum to share their learning.
Just down the hall, in a J-Lab class, students are diving into Moral Dilemmas in Ancient Texts. The Dilemma of the day anchors in a true experience from one of the most well-known ghettos, Kovno. Kovno was located in German-occupied, central Lithuania. Students were asked to identify the moral dilemmas found in a scenario where the Judenraht (a council of named Jews within a German-occupied ghetto/community) could only save just 5,000 of the community’s 30,000 Jews to work in artistic trades. The other 25,000 would be sent to death camps. Craftsmen within the ghetto learned of this and began to steal the white slips or passes to life. As students wrestled in conversations they identified dilemmas such as:
Was it morally right for the craftsmen to steal the white slips to life?
Should the Judenrat have taken the white slips back and redistributed them to craftspeople?
Who should determine who lives and dies?
Further down the way, sixth graders continued to study Shemot, specifically the role of women in protecting the children of B'nai Israel. While Pharaoh ordered all baby boys to die, the midwives took it upon themselves to keep the babies alive. As students analyzed, they wrestled with how to define what a hero is, identify heroes and acts of heroism. Through their conversations in class, a common theme emerged: save a life and you save the world. Next, students will move to identify and write about a hero in their life and draw connections to the text they’ve read.
Just as sixth-graders wrestle with biblical texts, in an eighth-grade reading class as students face challenging quotes from Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird. Quotes like “You never really understand a person until you climb into his skin and walk around in it” and “The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience” require them to dig deep into understanding characters, setting, themes and more. Unlike in past years, they are charged to notice how their own thinking evolves as they read further and analyze the text.
Finally, in an art class, students are creating masterful self-portraits mirroring the work of Frida Kahlo to express their identity. Images that represent their interests weave together with their drawings of themselves. Perhaps most interesting is noticing the quote they select to represent themselves around the border including:
“nothing will work unless you do” unknown
“yesterday is history, tomorrow a mystery and today is a gift. That’s why they call it a present.” Master Ogway
“In spite of everything, I still believe people are good at heart” Anne Frank
In just over an hour’s walk visiting rooms and connecting with teachers, I noticed the common thread connecting our humanities classes—our portrait of a graduate. Each class called on students to listen and question while thinking critically. Similarly, students grew skills preparing to advocate for themselves and others, all while weaving kindness and compassion with new knowledge. More so, several of our Jewish domains or focus areas were highlighted including identity, applied philosophy and ethics. Students were:
Actively engaged in considering diverse perspectives
Critically reading and engaging with Jewish texts
Engaged in nuanced, complex thinking about difficult social problems
Over the course of the year, I hope to open the doors to our classrooms with you and have you join a learning walk—through a Morning Brew, a Ma Nishma or a conversation!
Head of Middle School
Hello Lower School Families,
Let’s talk about math today! We can begin with the International Math Salute. Did you get it?
As you are likely aware, the primary resource for our Lower School math curriculum is called Investigations, designed at TERC and published by Savvas. They are in their third edition of the program, based on 25 years of research and development. As the name suggests, Investigations gives students opportunities to explore, share, hone and expand on their existing mathematical ideas. Students are encouraged to grow their competency and flexibility as they are exposed to the vertically aligned units in this curriculum.
Investigations encourages students to examine new math materials, strategies and problems with peers to maximize exposure to new and more complex ways of thinking. Alongside this primary resource, all our math teachers work diligently to keep a growing repertoire of thinking tasks on hand to supplement the daily lessons in Investigations. We start our lessons with thinking routines, like Number Talks, Which One Doesn’t Belong or Same or Different Routines, to name a few. Offering students these “low floor, high ceiling” tasks (challenges that are accessible to all learners) helps all students push the limits of their own thinking and grow from listening intently to peers. They are able to expand their learning within the eight Mathematical Practices, including, but not limited to, Constructing Viable Arguments and Critiquing the Reasoning of Others, Persevering in Problem Solving, and Using Appropriate Tools Strategically.
Below, I have showcased some examples of big thinking math tasks we use to ensure all students have an opportunity to feel supported, stimulated and challenged.
Whether you are a first grader working on composing numbers or missing addends, or a fourth grader beginning foundational algebraic thinking, there are SPLAT puzzles for you!
YOHAKU PUZZLES (with increasing difficulty)
The question here is simply, “What do you notice?”
Some students may see basic counting, shapes or evens/odds, and some might be ready to see patterns of prime numbers.
You might try one of these routines over dinner tonight to see how the members of your family view similar problems in unique and thought-provoking ways. I look forward to our continued math conversations and sharing new and innovative teaching tools with you soon.
Thanks for reading!
Head of Lower School
Additional game resources for home use:
Dear Early Childhood Families,
As early childhood educators, we often talk about emerging or foundational literacy. Emergent literacy encompasses the knowledge, skills and attitudes that a child develops in relation to reading and writing throughout the early childhood period, starting at birth and before the onset of conventional reading and writing instruction that begins in kindergarten.
This growth happens through authentic play as children engage in explorations at school and at home. Many parents ask us what they could be doing at home to encourage the development of these important skills. Here are a few suggestions:
Encourage your child to make a pattern with objects such as buttons, beads, small colored cubes or any other loose parts you may have around your house. By putting things in a certain order, children gain an understanding of sequence. This will help them discover that the letters in words must go in a certain order.
Have your child listen to a story, then talk with you about the plot, characters, what might happen next and what they liked about the book. During a read-aloud, children learn that books can introduce people, places and ideas and describe familiar experiences. Listening and talking help children build their vocabularies. Looking at a book as someone reads to them develops basic literacy concepts such as print is spoken word written down, print carries meaning, and we read English from left to right, from the top to the bottom of a page, and from the front to the back of a book.
Play a matching game such as concentration or picture bingo. Seeing that some things are exactly the same, leads children to the understanding that the letters in words must be written in the same order every time to carry meaning.
Recite rhyming poems to your child and work together to make up new rhymes. By doing so, children become aware of phonemes—the smallest units of sounds that make up words. This awareness leads to reading and writing success.
Have your child make signs as they engage in dramatic play. For example, creating a grocery store and labeling the items being sold. This allows children to practice using print to provide information.
Ask your child to retell a favorite story to you, a sibling, or a stuffed animal. This allows children to gain confidence in their ability to learn to read. They practice telling the story in the order it was read to them—from the beginning to the middle to the end.
Encourage your child to use invented spelling to write a grocery list or chore list at the same time you are writing your own list. By watching an adult write, children are introduced to the conventions of writing and the notion that writing is used to share information.
I hope these suggestions allow you to not only feel confident that you are taking appropriate steps in supporting your child's literacy development but that they also afford you the opportunity to engage in meaningful play as you continue to build your special bond with your child!
With warm regards and great appreciation for your partnership,
Head of Early Childhood
Bernard Zell 7th graders are flexing their detective muscles as they start their first big science project of the year: the Curious Case of the Mystery Powder! Each student is receiving a sample of an unknown substance and they have been tasked with determining its identity. The catch? Not every student has the same mystery powder, so their answers will all be different.
The 7th-grade science students have spent the past few weeks investigating characteristic properties and how they can be used to identify pure substances. In this project, they will apply that knowledge to their problem by testing their powder’s solubility, reactivity with other substances and density. They will then use data they collected from known substances to determine their powder’s identity.
The project culminates with students writing a scientific argument explaining their conclusion because, as we know, in science it is not enough to know something yourself; you have to be able to prove it to others with evidence.
The 6th graders in Ms. Ludwig’s math class explored the abstract concept of recursion and created beautiful representations of the famous recursive sequence: the Fibonacci sequence. We discussed the golden ratio and where we see recursion in our everyday lives, like daisies, pinecones, pineapples and more! The students then used the coding program, Snap! to build recursive code and create amazing digital works of art.