Dear Middle School Families,
As we prepare to kindle the lights of Hanukkah, we embrace a week of learning from home, each day uniting us as a community of learners connected by common Kavana, or intention, and Keva, rituals. Even through the waves of the internet, intentional learning continues, school rituals hold true and our commitment to curiosity never flickers.
As we launched distance learning this week, our fifth graders began Monday with a remote Havdalah service. Students awakened their senses with the smell of kitchen spices, a sip of juice and a view of the braided Havdalah candle casting a warm glow over the start of their week. While Havdalah typically takes place Saturday night when we can count three stars in the sky, our students focused on the concept of separation and applied it to the start of a week of at-home learning. When asked to share what the moment of Havdalah symbolized for them, students talked about the separation between family-time and time with friends, between wearing a mask and not wearing a mask, relaxing and learning, and even between being in Israel and in America.
Across the grades, the return to distance learning highlighted intentional planning for informational writing in our humanities classrooms. As fifth-graders began to write like historians in a quest to author works of non-fiction, our eighth graders launched research for their term paper anchored in the topic of “power.”
I first was able to observe fifth-graders define what it means to write like a historian: writing to teach others, using evidence from text in their own words, focussing on important information, using and cross-checking facts and adding details to make things interesting for readers. Later, I had the pleasure of seeing our eighth-graders pull out their Chicago Public Library cards and identify database sources and books to support their research on the topic of power and a specific historical figure. When comparing these two examples side-by-side, it became evident how we grow foundational writing skills while allowing for student curiosity to shine. In a writing conference, one student shared their interest in focusing on the abuse of power, or how their figure of choice intended to use power to do good but instead caused harm. This evolution of understanding the traits of informational writing to using informational text in supporting claims about power, illustrated student growth as writers and researchers across the Middle School.
Curiosity carried over from our humanities classes into active science labs from home! In preparation for a solubility lab, our seventh graders prepared to determine the relative solubility of multiple solvents. Students did a deep dive into their vocabulary in an effort to understand miscible and immiscible substances, the impact of density and the concept of dissolving a solute in a solvent before beginning a data collection. Later in the week, students will analyze their data to form claims using their evidence and reasoning.
Similar to our constant quest to support student curiosity and learning, we balance our Kavena with Keva. Health and wellness continue to be at the center of our thoughts. Wellness challenges promoting at-home workouts with Coach Sheahan kept students moving. An original wellness Bingo was shared across the Middle School encouraging students to pay attention to their physical and social well-being this week while away from school. Reminders of drinking enough water, stepping away from screens, engaging in fun active play outside, meditating and helping at home were among the many options.
As our week continues we hope students will feel a balance between intentional learning and the rituals we hold close to at Bernard Zell. We hope students will join us Friday right after school to close our week of distance learning as our Student Council launches a Challah Bake led by Hagit Lewis, our Director of Jewish Life. Below, you can find the ingredient and materials list.
Wishing you a week balanced with Kavena and Keva,
Head of Middle School
- 8 cups flour
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 3 tbsp yeast
- 4 eggs
- 1/3 cup oil (canola or vegetable)
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 and 1/2 cups warm water
- oven sheet tray
- parchment paper
- mixing bowl or kitchen
- measuring cups and spoons
- plastic wrap