Articles from Pardes Jewish Day School
This past summer, I had the incredible opportunity to attend the Teacher’s College Writing Institute in New York City. The Institute is an intensive 5-day conference focusing on how to successfully teach writing to our students. I believe it changed me as a teacher. I have always loved to teach writing but after my week in New York, my approach on how to teach it changed. Where I used to have students work on specific writing projects following specific steps, I now present various strategies in different genres of writing, and let the students choose how to exactly form their writing pieces.
While implementing this writing program, I have noticed a positive shift in the way my students create their writing pieces. They have a great deal of independence in what they write about and how long they want to spend on one piece. They are always asked to “just try” a new strategy to see how it feels for them and can choose what works best. I have seen hesitant writers become more confident and more excited to write every day.
It is important for children to feel like writers all day, every day and not just during “writing.” That being said, encouraging your children to write at home will only help them develop their writing skills and feel more like a writer. Encourage your child to look at the world in new and different ways and to perhaps write down their feelings and stories in a special notebook. My favorite times of the year are when my students beam with pride at what they have created with their use of language.
During the month of February, our eighth graders were involved in an in-depth study of the early history of the United States. With the theme of America, the Story of Us, students used skills of historical and geographical analysis to understand ideas and events that have strengthened the country. The eighth-grade class has continued to reference and celebrate our Constitution! The emphasis on democratic ideals, immigration and migration, citizenship and the personal character traits of each president have made their way into many class discussions. Recent discussions have focused on the role of Jews in the Civil War and how they were able to maintain their Jewish identity. Students debated the issue of slavery from a northern and southern Jewish perspective, citing Jewish texts. Students also created special seders on the battlefield through a journal entry where they had to describe in great detail how they would scavenge for the main elements of the holiday.
Even writing from an 1862 perspective, many students were able to share much of their personal connections to Judaism. They wrote about how they would simply be able to recite the seder from memory, not having a Haggadah while away from home. Others remembered how to shoo a mother bird away to take an egg from its nest, and still others took risks and used plants/shrubbery as a substitute for the bitter herbs. Students were a bit surprised to learn that six recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor were Jewish and even more impressed to know the telegrapher who was responsible for sending Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was also Jewish! We will soon trace our roots to America through a unique ancestral history project.
We are so proud of our eighth-grade class and how far they have come during their time at Pardes! We are excited to see where each student ends up and the successes that lie ahead.
Our interactive STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Night was the place to be, on Thursday, January 21st! STEM Night was an interactive showcase of what our Pardes children have been doing in science, math, and technology classes at school. It also served as a preview of upcoming STEM projects in future years for each grade.
Some of the fun hands-on projects we did with our families at STEM Night were:
- Explored the science of stinky feet with our Mrs. Garber & Mrs. Traulsen,
- Experimented with ramps and balls with Mrs. Kreisberger and Ms. Joseph.
- Scrutinized toy boats to learn about floatation with Mrs. Stokes and Ms. Joseph.
- Built a vegetable car with our student Chief Science Officer, Ethan Cohen,
- Drove a lego robot with Mrs Finks, who explained how a robot can be programmed to drive through a maze on its own.
Middle school exhibits showed the depth of our science program. Mr. Rivas led families through a Digital Comparative Anatomy Lab, as well as conducting pH tests with liquids as students showed off their knowledge of bases and acids. Budding aerospace engineers experimented with different fins and nose cones as Mrs. Burckhardt taught how engineering and aerodynamics come together in Blast Off with Straw Rockets. This IS rocket science! A few independent student research projects were highlighted such as “Does Multitasking Affect Performance?” and “How Does Sugar Concentration Affect Rocket Thrust?”
Technology was highlighted by our Eighth Grade PTech group. These select students are chosen for their aptitude with technology, academics, leadership, and conduct to help Mrs. Strolle to maintain and troubleshoot computer issues on campus. They teach parents how to use Schoology to check grades and assignments as well. PTechs teach teachers a thing or two about computers as well. The PTechs showed Middle School students how to use voice typing in Google Docs, and how to use Google Tone to share a website with a group without typing the URL. They also showed Lower School students new websites to reinforce for reading and math concepts. In addition, parents and students alike learned a few new Mac tricks.
Engineering was showcased as well. Families built marshmallow structures with Mrs. Nadler and Mrs. Peoples, to see which was the learn about engineering support structures. Together families spent time trying to build towers made of tennis balls with Mrs. Berko and Mrs. Silber, while trying not to let those bouncy spheres get away from them. Families investigated Simple Machines with Mrs. Verne and Mrs. Eckstein, using levers, wedges, inclined planes, pulleys, wheels and axles, and screws to show the principals of how simple machines make our daily tasks so much easier. Engineering is all around us and can be learned from an early age.
It isn’t STEM without math, the subject that supports all these scientific applications. Mr. Flatow tested parents and students out-of-the-box problem solving skills with Math Olympiad problems. Mr. Campanelli’s and Mrs. Saper’s students had to use critical thinking and problem solving skills to “Save Fred” in which they had to save a gummy worm from on top of it’s capsized boat, with its lifesaver trapped inside, only using four paper clips. Most importantly, students used flow charts to map their way to a solution. Mrs. Rosky taught that logic is everywhere using math logic cards, shapes and pattern creations, and Sodoku. In addition, families learned toys can be educational as they competed in a Rubik’s Cube competition, using both logic and a mathematical algorithm to best Ms. Hanover. Math is so much fun!
There was so much to do! Families visited the Phoenix Astronomical Society telescopes to look at the moon, stars and planets. Students of all ages got to decorate a STEM Banner with what they liked best about science, technology, engineering and math. Middle schoolers took STEM selfies, costuming themselves in goggles and lab coats, and hanging out with Dr. Bones, the skeleton. The most important part of STEM Night was that families spend time together celebrating their child’s learning in a hands-on interactive way.
Here at Pardes we aim to deliver the most impactful educational experience possible and in today’s world that means using the technology that’s available to make education exciting. Technology is integrated into our curriculum both as a supplement for our talented teachers and tool for our students. Technology begins appearing on a regular basis starting in second, third, and fourth grades. Our curriculum emphasizes keyboarding skills, internet research skills, learning how to create, edit, and modify documents, slides, websites, email, movie clips, and images. The students also learn how to use a variety of web-based software programs to create and design course assignments.
Beginning in fourth grade, each student develops an electronic portfolio in which they compile their work and write reflections about each piece. The students add to their portfolio several times at each grade level throughout the rest of their time at Pardes. Students in grades 5-8 can also take advantage of our BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) program.
Here is how each of our grade levels are utilizing technology to enhance their learning and education.
Kindergarten and first grade
Center time comes alive as students use mini iPads to reinforce math and language arts skills.
Teachers are able to complement math and language arts studies with technology, through interactive games on the jTouch TV.
Students become more confident with technology. Third graders are able to share information about a favorite book by posting on an interactive bulletin board called Padlet. They write weekly emails to their parents about their week at school using their Pardes gmail account. Google Documents become the main tool that students create writing and other assignments.
After mastering creating, editing, and electronically sharing writing pieces using Google Documents, a student then moves on to integrating technology into more of their studies. A few examples of what students work on are: creating Google presentations about natural disasters, being involved in a Mystery Skype with other schools attempting to guess their locations, and participating in a Global read aloud.
In fifth grade, technology has become a major part of how students learn and present their findings. Participating in an electronic Talmud using Mindmup, creating Glogs (electronic poster) about an explorer in Glogster, creating electronic storyboards showing exposition, inciting incident, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution using www.storyboardthat.com, and also developing assignments in Google Documents, Slides, and Drawing throughout the curriculum.
Technology provides a unique opportunity for students to work collaboratively to create music videos about plate tectonics, electronic flashcards and quizzes are created in Quizlet to test each other's skills, and a virtual store circular is created to understand discounts.
Learning to create “TED” videos, which are three minute videos sharing knowledge about a topic of interest, continues to show all of the different places technology can impact their life. Minecraft is used as a visual representation for exponents, specifically squares and cubes. Students also use of digital pH probes in science to determine pH digital versas analog helps students see how technology and science go hand in hand.
Throughout a student's time at Pardes they learn to use Google Apps to work, learn and collaborate anytime, anywhere. They incorporate Geogebra for graphic representations in math, and learn how to program their graphing calculators for distance, slope, midpoint formulas, and linear equations.
Middle school electives also offer students the opportunity to participate in Robotics, Hour of Code, code an app from scratch, and produce an electronic middle school newspaper. Using technology within our core curriculum and all of these electives inspires our students to use technology to change the world around them.