For all students in fifth through eighth grades, the adolescent years are a time of discovery — not just the discovery of new knowledge, but discovering how they relate to the core values shared by our Kehillah, discovering how to communicate and navigate relationships, discovering the importance of other people’s perspectives to build empathy, and discovering their voice and and inner strength to become changemakers. Students at this age are on the cusp of learning what their interests and passions are, and as 5-8 grade educators we believe it is our sacred duty to ensure that our students remain open minded and curious to new experiences and knowledge, because of the infinite possibilities lying ahead of them. In addition to academic excellence, we believe that at Schechter explicitly teaching essential skills such as self-management, reflection, communication and collaboration are paramount in a world that is ever changing, and which requires the 4C’s of the 21st century (critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, communication) to navigate.
To better nurture our students' curiosity, and empower creative and flexible thinking, we have built our middle school program into a two Kehillah model to appreciate the rapid developmental changes in adolescents — neurological, emotional, spiritual, and physical.
The 5-6 Kehillah is an exploration of identity — personal, Jewish and within the context of the greater world. This is the moment that students are evolving from child to adolescent, which requires special attention to helping them become more independent, while still having a soft landing as they develop the tools and skills needed to become more capable of standing on their own.
Our 5-6 Kehillah students delve into the stories of our sacred texts, honing the valuable skills of analyzing the parshiot and applying ancient wisdom to their daily life. Hevruta (partners) learning and the practice of working collaboratively become key tools, as students learn that often asking the right question is more important than having the right answer. Developing an appreciation for the purpose and significance of biblical commentary helps students to understand the many interpretations and facets of our holiest texts and an appreciation for revisiting and re-examining the texts to discover its hidden treasures.
Students develop spiritually through daily Tefillah and contribute to the Jewish experience of their peers by independently learning to lead Tefillah and read from the Torah.
In Hebrew class, students continue to work towards gaining proficiency b’ivrit. Fluency and accuracy of reading in Hebrew is stressed in order for students to be able to analyze biblical texts and to appreciate and understand modern writings like poetry, stories, and biographies as they build literacy and comprehension. Students write both creative and informative pieces in Hebrew and record themselves sharing information to improve their conversational skills. They debate and discuss current events occurring in Israel and work to gain a deeper understanding of Israel both past and present. All of these skills and experiences help prepare them to appreciate the complexity and beauty of Israel during their eighth-grade Israel Encounter.
During English Language Arts (ELA) class, students develop skills in reading, writing, public speaking, research, active listening and the use of language. They learn strategies to comprehend and analyze the deeper meaning of different types of texts, work to understand story structure and to compare and contrast similar themes and genres. Using a Writer’s Workshop model, students study mentor texts to learn how to write narrative, persuasive, and expository pieces. They routinely collaborate and discuss their work with one another in small groups. Through collaborations with their Social Studies and Science classes, students apply their skills to authentic learning situations.
The 5-6 Kehillah Social Studies curriculum explores perspectives from throughout history, serving as a springboard for integrated research projects that strengthen students' analytical, research and writing skills. Fifth-grade students focus on American history and government structures, broadening their global perspective as they continue to explore their Jewish identity. In sixth-grade, students explore ancient civilizations through simulations, mapping labs, extensive research projects and presentations. Students begin in the Paleolithic Era (2.58 million - 10,000 BCE) traveling through to Mesopotamia (4,000 BCE) and then to the ancient river civilizations of Ancient Egypt, the Indus Valley and China. The year culminates with a study of Ancient Greek myths and culture.
Our cornerstone Heritage Fair is firmly grounded in our philosophy of Shoah (Holocaust) education and celebrates our rich and diverse Jewish culture. Embarking on a study of family artifacts using objective and subjective analysis, fifth-grade students uncover their personal family history that their families have chosen to preserve through the generations. The Heritage Fair highlights the importance that our students understand and appreciate the vibrant Jewish life that existed before the Holocaust and continues to exist today.
The 5-6 Kehillah Math curriculum deepens the understanding of the relationship of numbers to each other as students develop both their computational skills and methodical reasoning. Fifth-grade students learn basic operations with whole numbers, place value, fractions and decimals. They also receive an introduction to geometry and data analysis. Building on this knowledge, sixth-grade students learn to incorporate the rules of integers (positive and negative) to real world scenarios through independent and collaborative problem solving. They also explore the foundations of algebraic thinking. The development and understanding of these fundamental skills ensures students’ success as they enter the 7-8 Kehillah.
As fifth-grade students step into the role of a scientist, they learn and model the scientific method to assist in their study of human body systems through observations and experimentations. Additionally, the students explore the world of atoms, electricity, batteries, and circuits via games, modeling, and hands-on problem solving investigations. From constructing a model of an atom to designing various types of circuits, students are empowered to explore their learning.
Sixth-grade students study environmental science, astronomy, light, and geology. Labs in the environmental unit include a closed ecosystem project and owl pellet dissections. An overnight ecology field trip forms an important component of this unit. During their astronomy unit, students partner with our design team in the Popkin Innovation Lab to build and test their own rockets.
Our sixth- through eighth- grade Science Fair provides students with authentic learning opportunities that allow them to continue to grow and refine problem solving, project management, public speaking and research skills — they learn resilience and the ability to pivot as they follow the scientific process and try, fail, iterate, and then try again.
Students come to the Popkin Innovation Lab to strengthen their design thinking, computation thinking and creative thinking skills through a variety of engaging and purposeful projects.
A highlight of the fifth-grade year is the student-centered game arcade unit, where students invent a unique interactive arcade game for their younger peers. As they work on their game designs, students strengthen their systems thinking by planning, debugging, and improving all elements of their games through user testing. The capstone of this unit is a celebratory “game arcade” which brings together the fifth-grade creators and the third-grade clients to play the games!
Working with the science department, sixth-graders design and construct a rocket launcher made of recycled materials and learn how to program a microcontroller (micro:bit) to measure and analyze the acceleration of their rockets. They prototype a board game using computational and systems thinking and then utilize Tinkercad (a 3D modeling program) to design a 3D game piece which challenges students to think in multiple dimensions. Finally, students learn how to create a physical print of one of their designs using our 3D printers.
“The 5-6 Kehillah serves as a bridge and development opportunity for our students who are on the cusp of adolescence to start stretching their minds to become more independent and socially aware learners.”
- Jennifer Coxe, Principal, Middle School, 5-6 & 7-8 Kehillot