At Hannah Senesh, our core curriculum is built on a strong foundation of knowledge and skills acquisition, a model of critical-thinking and open-inquiry, and is constantly enhanced by teacher-developed materials on current themes and topics. Our dual curriculum of general and Judaic studies offers students a stimulating and challenging approach to learning. Our classes are rigorous yet nurturing, rich in content, and creative in experience. The fundamental tools for learning, which are introduced in the early years, continue to be reinforced and expanded at every grade level.
Multiple and varied experiences, in diverse settings, contribute to children’s growth as learners, and provide tools for developing strong and positive self-identities. As a Jewish community day school, we are committed to helping our students achieve their fullest potential as they learn to navigate the waters of the American Jewish world and beyond.
Each classroom at Hannah Senesh is a joyous community of learners. We believe that attending to the development of social and emotional skills is an essential part of a successful learning environment. From the very beginning, our youngest students learn to be respectful, kind, responsible, and empathetic classmates. Equipped with these critical tools and values, students dive into learning. Their lively conversations fill the classroom, their stories spill across the pages of their notebooks, and their vibrant artwork covers our walls. Students exhibit their hard work throughout the year in culminating, collaborative performances such as living museums, publishing parties, and poetry readings. Thoughtful, brave, and bursting with ideas, our Lower School students buzz with energy and excitement for learning and growing.
Enduring learning experiences take place in and also outside of the classroom. Beginning in kindergarten and all through the grades, students embark on monthly field trips in Brooklyn and in the greater metropolitan area. These trips to museums, farms, theaters, conservancies, and historical landmarks enrich our students’ learning and academics. Field trips provide students with active, hands-on engagement that is fully integrated into units of study, both in the Judaics and general studies curriculum.
Our mixed-grade buddy program is a special part of the Hannah Senesh experience. Every child entering kindergarten is matched with a fourth grade buddy. They remain as buddies through third and seventh grade, respectively. Buddies travel to school events together, share reading time, and learn and play together throughout the year. Students develop relationships that last to graduation and beyond.
Middle school is a time of tremendous cognitive and emotional development. Concrete thinking expands to include more abstract approaches to problem solving and the changes in social life. Students are strongly supported throughout this exciting transition. Close relationships with teachers help students navigate increasingly complex academics and embrace assignments that require rigor and independence. There are many new and exciting elements of the Middle School experience that differentiate our Middle School from our Lower School. These include weekly mixed grade electives/chugim and Friday afternoon advisory groups. The advisory groups provide an opportunity for students to reflect on their week in an intimate and safe environment with a peer group and a teacher mentor. Scheduled office hours built into the week provide students with an opportunity to catch up on independent and group work and meet with their teachers. There are also afterschool clubs and athletics that change with each semester and with the needs and interests of the students in the Middle School.
In Middle School, trips reflect the growing independence that adolescents are developmentally ready for. In fifth grade, students explore New York City in a day-long adventure. Sixth graders spend four-days away at Teva, a Jewish environmental retreat in Connecticut where students experience learning about nature and sustainability while building strong class bonds. The seventh grade has a three-day trip to Washington D.C., where students tour the Capitol Building, perform at the Shakespeare Folger Library, and experience the Holocaust Museum. Finally, the eighth grade’s culminating experience as students at Hannah Senesh is a two-week trip to Israel, where so much of what they have studied in Hebrew, Judaic Studies, and humanities is experienced in a life-changing way.
As the oldest students in our school, Middle Schoolers have leadership opportunities to guide and teach younger children through afterschool activities, special events, and intergrade programs. Working and playing together across grades encourages meaningful social and emotional growth and helps students develop a stronger sense of themselves as learners, thinkers, and leaders of a greater community.
Walk into any English language arts class in our school and you will find students engaging in lively discussions about literature. From kindergarten through eighth grade, our curriculum exposes children to fiction, non-fiction, short stories, plays, and poetry from different time periods. In the early grades, students explore language arts through read-alouds, independent reading, partner reading, word work, and writing workshop. As they advance, students learn how to read through an analytical lens, examining story elements, textual evidence, explicit and implicit information, and the choices authors make.
Students write and read every day in all their classes, not just English language arts. Critical reading skills are also nurtured in science, math, and Judaic studies. As a result, they learn to articulate ideas clearly and confidently, to employ a range of writing forms from research papers and persuasive essays to poetry and short stories, and to be sensitive readers and interpreters of text.
Social studies at Hannah Senesh brings learning to life by allowing children to step into the experiences of people from faraway places and times. Through rich, engaging activities and classroom simulations, students embark on a journey that prepares them to be critical, independent thinkers, capable of reflecting on the past and deriving lessons for the present.
Our curriculum transitions students from a focus on their immediate community to a broader engagement with the larger world. Kindergarteners explore their surroundings with a school study. Third graders learn the history of New York. Fourth graders explore highlights of American history. Fifth graders engage in an intensive study of India and China. Seventh graders focus on European history. Eighth graders reflect on citizenship in their study of American history, U.S. government, and the Constitution. Beginning with understanding the self and culminating with a call to consider one’s responsibility to the larger world, our social studies curriculum is designed to help students gain and practice essential skills for understanding, engagement and leadership.
Math at Hannah Senesh is collaborative, stimulating, and focused on achieving deep understanding and mastery. Students develop their math abilities and knowledge through guided discovery, experiential learning activities, and thought-provoking discussions.
Hannah Senesh uses the Singapore Math curriculum, which focuses on problem solving and training students to think mathematically rather than memorizing rote formulas. Students gain fluency of the program’s base ten number system and bar models that help them derive the equations needed to solve word problems. From kindergarten through Middle School, students participate in hands-on learning, explore math through concrete, pictorial, and abstract language, and move towards algebraic and geometric thinking and reasoning. Teachers connect math concepts to real-world scenarios and students work to understand the value and importance of mathematical language.
Children naturally express wonder and seek out information about the world around them. In science, we tap into this innate curiosity as students conduct laboratory experiments, make observations, record scientific information, and draw conclusions. Engineering, mathematics, and technology are woven into every science unit. Whether it is figuring out the identity of an unknown white substance (third grade), blueprinting and wiring a house (fifth grade), or building a roller coaster to investigate movement (seventh grade), laboratory work develops skills in classifying, defining, and solving problems.
STEAM education at Hannah Senesh promotes an interdisciplinary approach to teaching and learning. This integrated approach allows students to have hands-on and interactive learning in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math. By combining essential questions, big ideas, and skills from these five areas, students are able to create their own path for meaning and understanding. Through integrated science units, technology lessons, and engineering experiences, students work through the design process, strengthening their skills with an emphasis on critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, adaptability, creativity, and initiative. In addition to learning the STEAM skills throughout the year in science classes, students have the opportunity to participate in an annual “STEAMfest,” during which students work in small groups to pose their own real-world questions and find answers through interactive, hands-on investigations.
Our program ensures that all students develop the tools necessary to advance their academic work and to acquire an understanding of fundamental concepts of digital citizenship and safety for the 21st century.
Students in the lower school use iPads and Eno boards in literacy and math centers for small group or independent work. Further enrichment in robotics, computer animation, and computer programming is offered in our afterschool program, where students explore engineering and design. Older students learn best practices for using the internet as a research tool and use iPads to create work that synthesizes and reflects on material learned in class.
The ancient teachings of Judaic studies are brought to life by our teachers and in our children. Torah stories and Rabbinic texts are framed by fundamental Jewish values such as acts of kindness/g’milut chasadim and the importance of debate/machloket in a way that is personally relevant and developmentally appropriate to our students. To create independent readers of Hebrew texts, we prioritize teaching skills in grammar, vocabulary, and literary interpretation. Our students are encouraged to read closely, question deeply, and use evidence from the text to support their opinions. The wide range of thought found in our community provides students with opportunities to encounter different perspectives and to clarify their own positions. By fostering a personal relationship with Jewish studies, we help our students embrace the study of Biblical and Rabbinic texts as a source of wisdom and meaning for their own lives.
Hannah Senesh students are exposed to Hebrew language from the moment they enter our school building every day. Hebrew greetings of “Boker tov” mingle with English wishes of “Good morning,” hallway walls feature student work exploring Hebrew language and culture, and voices are raised in song during morning prayer. Stepping into Hebrew classrooms, students experience and live the language, from the early years of letter recognition and simple words, to the later years of complex dialogues, stories, and essays. Our Hebrew language instruction is focused on developing all four skills of second-language acquisition: listening, speaking, reading, and writing, as well as learning about Israel and Israeli culture. Our goal is to prepare students to function in real-life situations outside of the classroom with comfort and confidence. We offer four levels of Hebrew in Middle School: Our Bridge Program is for students new to Hebrew. We have general and accelerated Hebrew and a Hebrew Heritage program for native Hebrew-speakers.
Hannah Senesh graduates understand modern Israel’s geography, history, government structure, and communities. Consistent with our educational philosophy, the Israel curriculum is inclusive and respectful of diverse perspectives. We do not promote a particular political point of view. Each student is encouraged to develop critical-thinking skills and the confidence to articulate his or her own opinion.
Hannah Senesh students enjoy first-hand experiences of Israel and Israelis. We are fortunate to have two Israeli emissaries/shinshinim spend a full year with us, infusing Israeli culture into our students’ learning. The eighth grade Israel trip is a wonderful culmination of the Hannah Senesh journey. Students apply what they have learned at Hannah Senesh, whether it is ordering ice cream in Hebrew, exploring a place mentioned in the Bible, saying the Prayer of Faith/Shema as the sun rises on Masada, or hearing the siren on Israel’s Memorial Day/Yom Hazikaron.
Our performing arts program emphasizes the process of working together, the joy of trying something new, and the value of doing one’s best. Dance, music, and drama help students build skills in collaboration, spatial awareness, memory, and listening while discovering their hidden strengths.
At every grade level, there are student performances reflective of academic study. The lower school Hebrew play combines the joys and hard work of performance with our Hebrew language program. Fifth through seventh grade students create “An Evening of Art, Music, and Dance.” This includes a gallery of student work, dance performances by each grade, and a musical performance by each class. Our Middle School musical is led by the eighth grade as actors. Props, costumes, sets, stage crew, and the orchestra involve the whole Middle School. Past productions include Fiddler on the Roof, Annie, and Oklahoma!
From kindergarten on, students are encouraged to find their inner artist as they build competence in the arts and communicate through a visual language. Our art teachers support students as they work with a broad range of media, including painting, drawing, collage, printmaking, and sculpture. Students develop both short-range and long-range projects and create both individual and collaborative works.
Art teachers connect with classroom teachers to create an interdisciplinary program, integrating math, social studies, science, and Judaic studies into weekly art lessons. Students develop their own creative voices as they learn about art history and how the visual arts connect with and reflect both historic events and contemporary culture.
Our music curriculum encourages students to sing, learn a variety of musical instruments, compose, and appreciate different genres of music. At Hannah Senesh, music is a source of pleasure, a way to build community, and a window into understanding and celebrating the world. It is central to school-wide holiday celebrations and class performances.
Physical fitness, skill acquisition, teamwork, and sportsmanship are at the core of our physical education program. In the early grades, children begin building cardiovascular endurance and learn how to behave responsibly when playing with others. As students grow, they are introduced to skill-based activities and strategies for playing as a team. Units of focus throughout the year might include soccer, climbing wall, fitness testing, basketball, dance, volleyball, and badminton or floor hockey.
Middle school students can participate in basketball teams and soccer teams as well as intramural sports. Hannah Senesh participates in the New York City Middle School Athletics League. Home games draw enthusiastic crowds!