Hello EHA Families,
I cannot believe that we have been in school for almost a month! The saying, “time flies when you are having fun” is an understatement. It has been an absolute blast diving right in and getting to know your children and the amazing staff, which make up Epstein Hebrew Academy. I am extremely grateful for the warm welcome as I transitioned into a new building and new role.
I wanted to provide you with an academic update, including details regarding the professional development in-service our staff participated in this Wednesday. In such a short time, our staff has made excellent progress and I look forward to continued success as we:
• Further strengthen academics school-wide;
• Augment our inclusive, “menschlach” culture; and
• Streamline operations;
fulfilling our mission of being a progressive, creative and nurturing environment.
Let’s first talk about what ‘educational progressivism’ is (it is not a political movement). Our in-service began with a presentation from Rabbi Green, regarding progressive educational strategies that greatly enhance classroom learning. Progressive education is not just a word in our mission statement. It is a pedagogical movement designed to enhance 21st Century skills needed not only today’s workforce, but also for the future. Over the course of the school year, our team will continue to talk and implement progressive education strategies and hone our own pedagogical craft.
After our whole-team workshop, our faculty continued their learning in several distinct focus groups:
Our early childhood team worked on preparations for DIAL-4 testing, which will occur during the week of October 16th. The DIAL-4 assessment tests students for motor skills (e.g. skipping, jumping, cutting, writing), conceptual skills (knowledge of colors, counting) and language skills (e.g. knowledge of letters and words, ability to solve problems). In addition, the Parent and Teacher Questionnaires measure a child’s self-help skills (e.g. dressing, feeding, bathing) and social-emotional skills (e.g. getting along with others, staying on task). The DIAL-4 screening test can help parents and teachers decide if a child’s skills are appropriate for his/her age or if further testing or interventions are needed.
The team also worked diligently on our Reggio Emilia-inspired early childhood education program with a specific focus on documentation. Within Reggio Emilia, documentation is a vital and key component. Transcriptions of children’s remarks and discussions, photographs of their activity, and representations of their thinking and learning are carefully studied. Once these documents are organized and displayed, they help to make parents aware of their children’s experiences. Additionally, this process makes it possible for teachers to understand the children on a greater level and allows the teachers to better evaluate their own work with the students – making it a great learning environment for the whole child. The documentation process also results in a highly valued educational “archive” for each child.
Our general studies team devoted its time examining the science curriculum to determine how our current curriculum aligns to state and national learning standards. The work builds upon the tremendous amount of work that our general studies team completed over the past few years, working to first catalogue and then augment the science curriculum. As a former science teacher, I know the importance of a progressive, fun, engaging, rigorous, and hands-on curriculum. Developing students’ capacity to interpret information, and then to make, critique and revise claims based on evidence must be a primary goal of education.
Our general studies teachers are engaging in work to take the science curriculum to the next level. Developing more multi-disciplinary, cross-curricular approaches, providing a multitude of hands-on, research-based experiences and engaging with resources in the community such as St. Louis Science Center, Monsanto, Pfizer and the new National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, are all topics of conversations that will help drive our work.
The Judaics faculty worked together to master and catalogue a comprehensive scope and sequence of Chaggim/Holidays curriculum. As a team, they charted the specific content (Halachot/Jewish practices and laws for the holidays, cultural and historic underpinning and significance), the values best articulated within each holiday, and those relevant skills best taught and suited to each topic. They planned what experience and learning goals should be set for each grade level to ensure that the Chaggim units are thoughtfully aligned to curricular goals. It was very inspiring to watch, listen and participate in meaningful conversations!
Hebrew Language, PE, Art & Library
Our faculty from these disciplines met to advance the scope and sequence of their curricula. Our Hebrew language teachers met to chart the ideal progression of learning appropriate for each grade level.
In Art instruction, we researched and compared art curricula, as well a variety of resources and collegial advice, regarding the medium of ceramics! I know that our students are eager to make use of our new EHA kiln!
In Physical Education, we worked with a new and exciting ‘Project Adventure’ curriculum. Together with traditional sports and instruction, this dynamic and fun curriculum encourages collaboration, communication, problem solving and conflict resolution – critical life skills.
Throughout the school year, you will receive updates, much like this one, to keep you aware of the progress we are making as a school. If you have any questions about academic content or school culture, my door is always open. Mrs. Melissa Langston, the EHA office manager, can help to schedule meetings should the need arise.
Thank you again for a wonderful start to the school year, and I look forward to our great growth and success.
Mr. Anthony Graham