Dear Middle School Families,
At the start of the year, a middle school teacher shared that the evolution of a new physical teaching space called on all of us to raise our teaching and to extend our own teaching beyond what we know as best practice.
This year, our middle school launched Tagliot (discovery), a dedicated time during the week to provide integrated and innovative learning opportunities for students. For the first time, teachers across all disciplines are working together, tearing down siloed walls of each subject area. Teachers spend time each week planning these sessions with a grade-level focus that eventually will build a foundation for students to incorporate their own passion as learners, humanitarians, activists and innovators to make something connected to their grade level Tagliot.
As our fifth grade students are settling into middle school, their Tagliot sessions have served as a window to building community. Students began by constructing identity maps focussed on themselves. This week, students were asked to make something that represented their Gibush. Interestingly enough, this work led to one student suggesting the creation of a chain or a visual representation for our new building that would acknowledge each student as an individual and their connection to Bernard Zell.
Our sixth graders are already deep into an integrated study of food justice that will lead to TED talks written and delivered by students. Currently in the information gathering stage, they are participating in workshops that begin with an outside speaker and always include a problem solving or inquiry experience. Thus far, students have worked with a nutritionist, our own Chef Ben, and other professionals who have a connection to food justice.
Seventh Graders began Tagliot tackling a giant question of “What does it mean to be good?” Embarking on a journey to look at ethical dilemmas and how as humans we respond, students have already connected to readings they’ve encountered in the Tanakh. With support from an integrated teaching team, students revisited the first chapter of the Torah, the creation of the world, with a new lens: a focus on “What does it mean to be good?”
In 8th grade, students are beginning their year-long project that anchors in a theme of moral agents of change in a world gone mad. Students will be reading multiple texts by Elie Wiesel and working with author Ariel Burger to understand Wiesel’s work as a humanitarian, activist and moral agent of change. In Tagliot, students have the time to identify their skills and passions as they begin to identify a problem they wish to bring a change to.
Looking across the grade levels it’s clear that students are wrestling with real world issues and beginning to understand how their talents and passions help them to be an agent of change. In less than a month’s time, Tagliot has accomplished the goal of integrated learning and now is beginning to reach toward innovative thought and design. On its own, Tagliot has even launched opportunities for Tikkun Olam (any activity that improves or repairs the world). I can’t wait to share all the learning and discovery that grows from Tagliot with you in the months ahead!
As we approach the High Holidays, I want to extend my deep appreciation for the opportunity to work with you and your family. The school community at Bernard Zell has become a blessing to my family and I. I wish each of you a shanah tovah u’metuka; may we all enjoy a good and sweet new year together!
Head of Middle School