Education : : Curriculum Overview
Our Goal is to have fun while we enjoy learning about the treasures of Judaism
The curriculum is built in a spiral fashion, designed to coincide with the developmental stages of children at each grade level. While familiar areas are repeated, new foci are added at each progressive stage. We hope that all students will begin their studies in the Open Room and continue through High School graduation. Along the way we encourage participation in Consecration, B’nai Mitzvah, and Confirmation. These life cycle events are the stepping stones to a life of Jewish learning.
The Open room is a setting where children in pre-kindergarten and kindergarten explore the realm of “Jewish Time” through five activity centers – art, games, drama, cooking, and free creative play. The last rotation of the morning is reserved for a music period for the entire room. The program is designed to embrace a two-year curriculum, although some choose to enter only at the kindergarten level. The children come to know the calendar cycle of holidays as well as ceremonies, symbols, and reasons for celebration. Other Jewish topics are examined including Tzedakah, the Mezzuzah, the Rabbi, Jewish books, and selected bible stories.
The goal is to foster and strengthen Jewish identity through a wide variety of positive Jewish experiences. The curriculum focuses on the Jewish values of the month, major Jewish holidays, specific Bible stories, and our relationship with God. The first grade curriculum includes an introductory lesson on Hebrew letters each week. Specials include morning t’fillah (services), music, and Sefer Safari (library reading program). The students explore Jewish ritual, history, tradition, and symbols as together they learn and practice basic Jewish skills.
In the second grade year we highlight the young child’s natural curiosity by providing materials about Jews outside of their own personal Jewish community. We examine the lives of Jews in relation to the Jewish lives of our second grade students. The students explore their own Jewish families, their synagogue community, the world Jewish community, and the land and people of Israel. Hebrew is continued and a familiarity with all of the Hebrew letters is expected by the end of the year. Students participate in t’fillah (services), music and Sefer Safari (library reading program). This is also the student’s first opportunity to be involved in the Gesher family education program.
Third grade students explore ritual, history, tradition, symbols, and legend as well as achieve an understanding of the deeper meanings of the Jewish festivals. In addition, students explore the relevance between the holidays and today’s world. It is expected that this exploration of holidays delves much deeper into the meanings of each holiday than was done in previous years. The students continue their Hebrew study with the introduction of vowels and the challenge of putting letters together to form words. Students participate in t’fillah (services), music, and Sefer Safari (library reading program).
The fourth grade concentrates on the subject of Israel: people, land, history, religion, and culture. Beginning with the biblical concept of Brit (covenant), the students spend the majority of the year learning about the modern state. The students, also, are becoming aware of the world around them and they, therefore, study current events in this grade. Midweek Hebrew studies begin in the fourth grade. This year the students become confident with their letters and vowels and are able to decode Hebrew quickly and easily. Heritage words are introduced as are some introductory prayers.
The fifth grade concentrates on the study of the life of a Jew. An important value in Judaism is the marking of time. The students will look at all of the life cycle events; including the liberal customs such as Brit Bat (baby naming for a girl). Jewish lives are punctuated by life cycle events, but Judaism is also seen in our daily life. Therefore, we also take an in depth look at the topics of God and Torah. The Hebrew studies in fifth grade become more advanced as the first part of our Shabbat morning service is learned.
The focus here is on Jewish history. Through the study of history we hope to teach our students that history is a collection of stories about people and the choices they made. These historical people can tell us about who we once were, but more importantly they can give us insights into what we value today. It is our hope that this year of history does not remain in the past, as we constantly strive to teach our students what it means to be a Jew and what important Jewish values are. Sixth grade studies culminate in a Jewish History Museum to which parents are invited. Sixth grade Hebrew classes continue to learn the Shabbat morning liturgy.
Our Junior High School curriculum is based on an elective system. The students choose two elective courses each semester. The courses include students from both seventh and eighth grades. The goal of the junior high is to further the student’s Jewish learning at the high level that they are now able to achieve. Through these classes we hope our students will learn how to read and learn from texts and how to integrate Jewish values into their lives. This is done through a large variety of topics and courses including: American Jewish History, Holocaust, Jewish film, Comparative Religion, and more. Our seventh grade students also participate in a once a month B’nai Mitzvah class where, through formal and informal programs, they learn about what it means to be a member of our community and delve into different aspects of their Jewish identity.