For the past three years, the JDS faculty and administration have embarked on an ambitious journey of growth and innovation. From 2010-2012, we piloted our inquiry-based learning program with remarkable success. In 2011-2012, under the guidance of an energized faculty and staff, Board of Trustees and administration, we set a new educational vision for our school. Focusing on 21st century learning, community and stewardship, our program creates a unique educational opportunity that prepares children to live intelligently, thoughtfully, peacefully and sustainably within a rapidly changing global environment.
The next step in our evolution of growth is to introduce our integrated curriculum of learning through inquiry, exploration and reflection, into what is currently known as our preschool. With that, I am overjoyed to announce the Fall 2013 opening of the JDS Junior Kindergarten! The program is inspired by and will be designed in direct alignment with our highly-regarded Science Kindergarten and overall school program.
Our Junior Kindergarten students will enter into a nurturing, fun and engaging learning environment. This program will create a developmentally appropriate balance of social, emotional and academic preparedness for kindergarten. A child's innate curiosity will be cultivated and celebrated as their teachers guide them to construct new knowledge and understanding of themselves, their learning and their world. By extending our inquiry-based program and affective curriculum grounded in Responsive Classroom practices, we are furthering our commitment to providing an unparalleled, distinctive Jewish education grounded in best practice.
With this change, comes a subtle change in the way we refer to what is now called our preschool program. The class currently known as P3 will continue to be our Early Childhood classroom, led by Michelle Younker, and then progress into Junior Kindergarten which then moves into Science Kindergarten. Our current PreK teachers, Alla Torchinsky and Candy Baunsgard, are looking forward to working with Junior Kindergarten students in the fall.
Features of the new program include inquiry science, morning meetings, music & movement, language lab & early literacy, hands-on math investigations, expression & creativity, and experiential learning. We're now accepting applications. Interested families can contact our Admissions Director Amy Adler at
or call 425-460-0260 to set up a tour or for more information.
Note: New families with children in Junior Kindergarten through 6th grade qualify for Discovery Grant money applied toward tuition. There is no income threshold to qualify.
~Suzanne Messinger, JDS Director of Education (
JDS Middle Schoolers walk into minyan each Monday and sing Psalm 30’s words of inspiration:
“You, God, changed my sadness into dancing. You, God, removed my garments of mourning and clothed me in joy”
But what happens when the events of the world make these words impossible to say? We look out upon the senseless death and injury of marathon spectators and runners – and the pain feels so real and all encompassing – that movement from sadness to joy is far removed from our reality.
Yehuda Halevi wrote centuries ago: My heart is in the East, but I am at the edge of the West. And so too it is with us – We in Seattle are on the edge of the West – but our hearts are in Boston – this hour, this day, this week. We are there – ready to respond, but not quite knowing how.
So we look to the Torah and hear the words of our weekly parasha, Acharey Mot, After the Death, reminding us of a moment of joy equal to multiple marathons. After months of meticulous building, the mishkan, God’s dwelling place on earth, is finally complete.
And the Torah describes how the communal joy of the day quickly turns to tragedy for Aaron and his family. Nadav and Avihu offer their own, unrequested, gift to God – a “strange fire” the Torah calls it. A fire quickly consumes the boys and Aaron, their Abbah, responds with total and complete silence.
Can we blame Aaron? Isn’t this our initial response as well? Paralyzed and numbed by an enemy whose rules have no logic, our first response is “lock-down.” Shut the windows. Bolt the doors. Hold tighter than tight onto those we love dearest.
But there is another way to respond, offered by the 2nd parasha we read this week. “Be Holy Because I am Holy” God calls to us. “Be like me! Study what I do. Imitate. Emulate.”
With the challenge of parashat kedoshim reverberating, we return to those words of Psalm 30, “You, God, changed my sadness into dancing” and we realize that to be Human is to respond to tragedy with silence, with paralysis, with fear but to be God-like is to respond to darkness by standing up and being the catalyst, the change agent, for light. To be God-like is to dust off the rays of hope while swimming in the sea of hopelessness. To be God-like is to imagine a world that can be free of evil and sadness even at the very moments when those emotions are most intensely pushing us to feel otherwise. To be God-like is to say that I have a part to play in helping those who are in pain peel away their sadness, don the clothes of comfort and, at some point in the future, wrap themselves in garments of joy and delight. This is what it means to be God-like: To dream of transformation at the moment of quintessential inertia, to stand up joyfully when the world tells us to sit down and cry. This is the Jewish way. This is our way.
In every class room at JDS hangs a set of Class Values for which all learning is rooted. In the “educational world” these values are referred to as “soft skills.” Paul Tough, author of How Children Succeed, refers to them as the non-cognitive skills that define a child’s character and are highly predictive of his/her future success, even more so than a high IQ or impressive cognitive skills.
At JDS, our teachers place strong emphasis on developing these skills and values, knowing that children will carry them for a lifetime. And for many weeks building up to now, there has been a bubbling excitement among teachers, staff and parents who are seeing the evidence of this work spilling from the ones who matter most, our students. From our youngest of students to our students gearing up for MS graduation, we see them reflecting on their challenges in growth in the areas of diligence, empathy, cooperation, integrity, creativity, perseverance, etc.… Below, is a snapshot into one of those classrooms, our JDS Kindergarten.
This Monday, HaMorah Alice was in kindergarten attending their Morning Meeting. Struck by what she observed, she immediately sent an email to all JDS teachers to share her delight. Alice wrote,
I have been watching an amazing kindergarten Morning Meeting this a.m. The kids are sitting in a circle and Paula and Aileen are asking them about which “Class Values” they will work on today and why. Not only are the children able to articulate which value they will work on, but they can tell their teachers why they need to work on that value. These two wonderful kindergarten teachers are not only teaching these values for class management but relating this to the world at large! They are also modeling this for their children. What an amazing world this would be if every child had Aileen and Paula for kindergarten teachers! Thank you Aileen and Paula!
Other teachers shared in her joy and responded with their own cheers:
• Thank you for sharing this, Alice. I want to come be part of this meeting!
• That’s fantastic!
• Wonderful! Can’t wait to get those lovely children in Middle School!
And HaMorah Diane even added her own affirmations…
Today during our Ben C Bear class, several students, on their own (i.e. without my prompting), made the connection between the problem the bears were having with each other and the Class Values. “Pete was not demonstrating our class value of cooperation and empathy when he said______to Ben C Bear”. They were also able to make today’s “problem”, with previous lessons we’ve done about how to make a good decision: “Pete did not stop and ask himself: ‘What would happen if I say/do ____? Could someone else get hurt? Could I get hurt? Would I like someone to do this to me?” It was exciting to see the beginning of internalization that is happening for these kids. All the work being done in Responsive Classroom, Positive Discipline, is really paying off!
I asked HaMorah Paula and Aileen to describe the process of teaching and modeling such sophisticated concepts and values to kindergarteners. They wrote:
In the beginning of the year, we only had 4 values—patience, cooperation, curiosity and confidence. For a while we just referred to them in reference to our class agreements. As the year progressed, after Havdallah we asked the children to reflect on the previous week and how it went for them—what was problematic for them, etc. and to think about which value might help them. In January, we added 4 more values—independence, empathy, diligence and integrity. We told them that they were really growing up and maturing and that they were ready for these new values. We discussed each one and how it referenced our class agreements and being a self-manager. We continue to have the children reflect on the previous week, select a value that they feel they need to work on and explain why they chose it. We then give them a sticker to help them remember. On Tuesday, our Morning Message asks the children to recall the value that they chose and to draw a picture of it. All throughout the week, Aileen and I refer to these. We acknowledge appreciations when children are practicing their value and remind them when their behavior does not reflect the value that they chose.
Both Aileen and I are in awe of how the children are beginning to internalize this… and they are popping up in many other parts of their day: at home and in other classes.
Yesterday a student came to school with her value written on a new label and taped to her shirt to help her remember her chosen value during the day. Today, a different parent took a picture of the values posted on the wall so he could reference them at home. His daughter’s chosen value on Monday was the subject of dinner conversation. Over the last couple of months, we have received parent feedback that their children are coming home and sharing these conversations, and how our values are beginning to help shape behavior at home as well as at school.
This morning’s morning message asked the children to think of a word that began with the sound of a tip stop buzzy (/d/). Most of the children chose words such as dad, dog, duck, etc. One child excitedly said “Diligence”!
I am moved, by the on-going success of our school-wide affective and academic curriculum and so excited that Alice’s impromptu reflection inspired this blog by providing us with such clear, authentic evidence. And I would be remised if I didn’t emphasize the endless of stories we have, across grade levels, that speak to the magic of this type of instruction and learning. Each and every day our JDS children are being equipped with the values and skills that will ensure their lifelong academic achievement and personal growth. We certainly have our remarkable teachers to thank… I know they are so proud to see the learners and people they are guiding their students to become!
3rd Grade: 3rd graders read The Butterfly by Patricia Polacco. Students wrote down “questions” and “connections,” and shared intermittent “I wonders.” A 2nd period was taken to sift through thoughts and make sense of the Holocaust on a 3rd grade level.
4th Grade: What began as a teacher generated desire to say mourners kaddish as a group quickly evolved into a kid led knowledge sharing and information gathering session. Because of this student investment, the moment of silence and kaddish that ended our session became a culmination filled with meaning, intention and intensity.
5th Grade: 5th graders spent their Hebrew period reading Grandpa’s Tallit, a wonderful story that tells about a Great Grandfather’s escape from the Warsaw ghetto and ultimate journey to freedom in Israel. 5th graders also read The Shining Star which is the life story of a Jewish boy in the Holocaust written by Oren and Ittai Kochavi’s aunt and Illustrated by their cousin. The story itself documents the life of Oren’s Grandfather in Hungary during WWII.
6th Grade: The 6th graders explored issues of ethics and Jewish values related to resistance during the Shoah. Using the film Deliverance, 6th grade looked at situations faced by the Jewish Partisans hiding in the woods of Belorussia and discussed the ethics and Jewish values that helped them to both survive and remain connected to their Jewish heritage. The students were able to connect the “choiceless choices” of the Partisans to their own lives by thinking about how they make decisions and what values should inform that process. Focusing on those who chose life during a time of great death allows for lessons that can apply to our own lives today but also reminds us of the importance of working to prevent the need for people to have to make “choiceless choices” in our world.
7th Grade: 7th graders read Simon Wiesenthal’s biographical story The Sunflower which focuses on the nature of forgiveness. Students decide what they would do were they in Wiesenthal’s place: Would they forgive the dying, young Nazi officer who committed war crimes who is asking a random Jew (Wiesenthal) to absolve him. Students wrote and shared responses and looked at “expert responses,” whose ideas where remarkably similar to those they had intuitively generated.
8th Grade: 8th graders watched Schindler’s List after an introductory history lesson about ghettos and the process by which the Nazis came to the Final Solution. Students wrote film responses , making connections to other events in modern Jewish and secular history.
JDS is excited to announce that it is accepting applications for a STEM Educator who will help us design our new STEM learning space and develop and execute our STEM curriculum using an inquiry-based teaching/learning approach.
STEM Educator For the 2013-14 School Year
The Jewish Day School of Metropolitan Seattle (JDS), a growing preschool through 8th grade independent school east of downtown Seattle, is currently accepting applications for a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Educator who will design and lead the school’s STEM initiative and facilitate its integration with our existing inquiry-based curriculum and themes. While working with faculty and students campus wide, classroom experience will primarily be with 6th through 8th grade students in what is currently the school’s science lab. The school has secured funding to transform the lab into a “STEM Innovation Lab” which will be an inspiring space with the tools and resources needed for students to create their own experiments, connect with experts globally and truly be active participants in their own learning. The new STEM Educator will have an opportunity to help design and equip this engaging learning center.
JDS faculty members are part of a collaborative team of self-reflective, creative and passionate educators focused on developing the "whole child", nurturing individual identity, imagination and inquiring minds, in an open classroom setting. The successful candidate should have experience developing and executing STEM curriculum using an inquiry-based approach to teaching and learning.
The Jewish Day School serves nearly 250 students on a lovely 7 acre campus in Bellevue, WA, east of Seattle and just two miles south of Microsoft’s main campus. The school’s mission is to provide an exceptional education that empowers Jewish children to be confident, wise, and compassionate upstanders who are committed to life-long learning and community stewardship. JDS was among the first schools in the area to implement a laptop program for its students, has been recognized as a Level 2 King County Green School for its environmental and conservation work on campus, and has been long recognized for its strong science and math instruction. For more information about JDS, please visit www.jds.org.
To apply for this position, please email to
your cover letter, attached PDF CV/resume and references. Please note that applications will be reviewed beginning April 8, 2013.
At the Jewish Day School (JDS), we're proud to be well ahead of the curve in instituting an inquiry-based approach to learning. We started phasing in inquiry three years ago and now, it is part of every class experience in our preschool through 8th grade program. Inquiry is a student-driven, teacher-facilitated model rich in project based learning experiences where students respond to real-life global issues, asking questions then designing experiments and research methods to "uncover" their own answers. It's a powerful approach that truly nurtures and inspires a love of learning. So successful is it with children across the nation that the National Research Council is now emphasizing the need for inquiry-based instruction in schools and the Advanced Placement College Board is asking teachers to re-envision their curriculum with an inquiry-based approach.
JDS students are already immersed in inquiry learning but we're about to kick it into high gear as we launch an initiative to create a state of the art STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Innovation Lab that will debut in September.
At our recent Gala & Auction, the STEM Innovation Lab was the focus of the Fund-a-Need segment of the live auction. A portion of the money raised during Fund-a-Need will allow us to align our science lab's physical space with our educational philosophy. In 21st century, inquiry-based learning, students no longer rely on a single reference such as a textbook or teacher - instead they connect instantly to the rest of the world for information. They hunger for opportunities to explore; are eager to problem solve through collaboration; and they are innovators with immense potential. But today, our existing science lab resources, the limitations of the physical space and absence of technology tools are restricting their innate ability to design, invent and discover.
With the new STEM Innovation Lab, students will have an inspiring space and the tools and resources needed to create their own experiments, connect with experts globally and truly be active participants in their own learning. We are committed to providing the energy, vision and money needed to make this a reality. With the support of the community, we will accomplish our vision and debut this campus enhancement in the fall. If you were unable to attend our Auction but would like to help, please contact our Development Department today. You can speak with Risa Coleman at 425-460-0242.
Thanks to everyone for their support of what will be one of the most exciting and engaging learning spaces on campus!
-Maria Erlitz, Head of School
Each class has its own way of marking 100 days of school or other milestones in the school year. In the JDS art lab, students celebrated 100 days in a new and wonderfully creative way. Art Specialist Cyndi McClave explains, "On our 100th Day of School, to help our 2nd graders celebrate, I decided to challenge them to mix 100 different colors using only red, yellow, turquoise, black and white! I used the Apple program “Pages” to make a grid for them to paint over, consisting of 10 rows of 10 very light gray squares with a little white space in between. I didn’t want to see harsh outlines around the colors and this worked well to give them a structure to paint over while allowing the colors themselves to “steal the show”! Then I made copies on card stock and gave my students their challenge to mix new colors!"
The results are fantastic palattes of color and young faces delighted to discover their own creations, many of which express the personalities of the young artists. Great job to Cyndi and the 2nd graders.
Tzedakah Education & Service Project – JDS 6th Grade
JDS 6th graders are changing how they approach the idea of Tzedakah on Purim – they’re focusing on the actual mitzvah of giving gifts to the poor. Guided by their teacher Nance Adler, the 6th graders put together an educational program for every grade in the school (click here for the PPT presentation they produced and see video below of their speaking to fellow students) and are organizing a tzedakah drive to serve the neediest in the community.
The students learned about the principles of tzedakah according to Rabbi Jonathan Sacks in his book “To Heal a Fractured World”; the various ways to give tzedakah and the principles behind their relative merit; and the mitzvah of Purim related to giving gifts to the poor. The class then worked together to select four groups as the “most needy” in the community and an organization serving each of those groups. They selected:
Veterans served by the Veteran’s Administration Hospital on Beacon Hill
Homeless served by Operation Sack Lunch
Terminally ill children served by Seattle Children’s Hospital
Foster children served by Treehouse for Kids
The 6th graders then broke into small groups where they created grade-specific lesson plans for teaching what they had learned to their fellow students. Each 6th grade Navi student presents to two other grades from preschool to 8th grade.
The students urge you to remember tzedakah, a Hebrew word whose root means “justice,” is often translated as “charity” because when you give charity you make the world a more just place. Donate generously to these groups at Purim and always.
JDS Faculty Selected to Present at Centropa Conference in San Diego
February 11, 2013 – Bellevue, WA - The Jewish Day School of Metropolitan Seattle (JDS) is pleased to announce that two of its Middle School faculty have been selected to present at a Centropa Seminar in San Diego this month. Both have attended previous seminars and this year, as presenters, will showcase the ways they each use Centropa materials to enhance their classroom experiences.
Margaret Chasan has been involved with Centropa for several years and has attended Centropa’s Holocaust Education Workshop in Europe where she shared some of the family films her students produce in her class each year. “As a teacher of Jewish history, Centropa is a treasure trove,” explains Margaret Chasan. “I show my students stories of people who lived the history I am teaching, and it becomes three dimensional. They are learning history from the inside out, flesh and blood voices from other times rather than just the facts. The combination is very powerful."
Nance Adler uses Centropa to add dimension to her rich Judaics curriculum. "The stories on the Centropa site can be used to teach about ethical dilemmas, halachic practice, community life and the struggles of Jews living during the Soviet era,” explains Nance Adler. “I have used Centropa in my Theology class to teach about vows and the Kol Nidre prayer and in JSS to provide a broader picture of Jews who lived through the Shoah then just Anne Frank or Elie Wiesel."
Centropa is a Vienna and Budapest-based non-profit NGO that uses advanced technologies to preserve Jewish memory in Central and Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, the Balkans and the Baltics, and then uses those same technologies to disseminate their findings in creative and innovative ways. Centropa says, “We’re connecting 21st century teenagers to 20th century Jewish history, culture and literature in ways that have never been done before.” Info. at www.centropa.org.
As a culmination to their enVision math geometry topic on lines, angles and shapes, JDS 4th graders were challenged to create Picasso-style geometric works of art using their new knowledge of geometric shapes and properties. The students' works of art show their depth of understanding, their ability to transfer and apply their mathematical learning to the real world and most especially how fun and exciting is integrate creativity, art and math!
Their assignment was to create a piece of art using:
5 triangles (at least one equilateral, isosceles and scalene)
at least one pentagon
four line segments
a 65 degree angle
a 50 degree angle
a 100 degree angle
a 170 degree angle
The results are mathematically accurate, clever, and creative art pieces now displayed in their classroom!