Opening Minds, Bridging Differences, Living Jewish Values.

Academic Program

News

High School

As educators of high school students, we recognize and appreciate the complexity of adolescence and provide a program that stimulates, challenges, and engages our adolescent students intellectually, esthetically, emotionally, and morally. We prize the availability and accessibility of our faculty members who foster relationships with students that enrich the high school experience.

Across the disciplines, we develop critical thinking skills by identifying cognitive processes and subjecting them to intellectual standards that enrich both the classroom discourse and students’ writing. Talented faculty engages students in dynamic learning in classroom environments that are open, inquiry-based, student-centered, and hospitable to a variety of learning styles. Our academic program is sophisticated, integrated and the product of extensive faculty collaboration. Electives across disciplines afford students unique opportunities to study a topic in greater depth. The incorporation of laptops, electronic whiteboards, and other digital technology enriches the academic program in and out of the classroom

English

The English program at Heschel is predicated on our core belief that students will live better, richer, and more meaningful lives if they do so in the company of great literature. People have always used storytelling to reflect upon and wrestle with experience. By putting our students in conversation with stories, poems, plays, and essays—texts of all sorts, from the ancient to the modern--we expose them to the breadth of human experience and invite them to examine themselves and their world in ever new ways.

Classes are conducted as seminar-style discussions that encourage and reward close reading, teaching students that how they read is as important as what they read. In each year core classical texts are placed in conversation with contemporary works selected by the individual teacher. Writing is as central to the curriculum as reading. Assignments vary because written work not only reflects, but also shapes the thinking students do. Focused free-writing allows students to explore established ideas and discover their own. In formal essays, students sculpt and shape their ideas with the rigor and logical flow needed to engage an external audience. All English classes also incorporate a range of creative writing assignments that spring from the literature. By imitating Hemingway’s style, writing in the voice of Holden Caulfield, or filling a gap in Austen’s narrative with an original monologue, students develop their own voices and experience the thrill of creating original work. In every year, students also study grammar and vocabulary, strengthening their basic writing skills. Our aim in all classroom activities is to inspire a love of language, to develop the ability to think deeply about the complexities of human experience and relationships, and to foster passionate, sophisticated writers and young adults.

Social Studies

In teaching and learning history, a fundamental tension exists between covering facts and developing historical habits of mind. Our program emphasizes analysis and reflection; we guide young people toward interpretation rather than present them with facts. Like professional scholars, our students work extensively with primary sources, combining their study of these artifacts with readings from secondary sources. The first provide vivid, tangible examples from the past, and the latter offer context.

Skills acquired in this discipline, including the ability to assess evidence and to judge the merits of conflicting accounts and interpretations, are applicable in many fields of study and work. They are especially relevant to students’ future responsibilities as citizens of a republic. Thus we regularly make connections to contemporary political debates and conflicts.

The department takes a thematic approach to the study of the past, setting those themes in a broadly chronological, transatlantic framework. In ninth grade students study early modern challenges to medieval European society – from the Protestant Reformation, through the Enlightenment, to the American, French and Haitian Revolutions. In tenth and eleventh grades, their studies take them through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, maintaining a focus on Atlantic worlds and broadening the scope to include the developing Middle East. All seniors take a fall semester course on the history of modern Israel and in the spring choose from among classes offered in history and its allied disciplines, which have included: Economics, Comparative Religions, Contemporary Urban Issues, Memorializing the Holocaust, Policies and Approaches to Alcohol and Substance Use – Past and Present, and Poland: A Case Study in Revisiting National Identity.

Mathematics

The understanding and mastery of mathematics is crucial in today’s world, a world in which the exchange of information is increasingly based on problem solving and technology. Students must be challenged to excel in mathematics if they are to grow as learners in all fields of study. The study of mathematics at the Heschel High School is designed to develop mastery in fundamental skills in order to facilitate the growth and development of the individual learner. If a student has mastered basic algebra, they begin their high school study with a course in geometry and proceed through advanced algebra, trigonometry, precalculus and calculus. Students whose natural inclinations and talents draw them towards mathematics are offered the most demanding course offerings. They are encouraged to learn mathematics by creating it on their own in order to become “do-it-yourself” mathematicians. Students for whom the subject is less intuitive need to be challenged and offered the support they require. We offer a math lab program four days a week where students can meet with teachers on a drop-in basis for extra help.

Students at the Heschel High School are prepared for the varied applications of mathematics in the years that lie ahead. They are given a broad foundation of mathematical ideas and real life applications that will prepare them for study in business, science, economics, and higher level mathematics in college. Each course of study presents opportunities to develop mathematical skills numerically, analytically, graphically and verbally, with the support of technology where applicable. Students take full advantage of advanced technology materials that are available. Students are encouraged to participate actively in class, to work constructively with their peers, and to use the language of mathematics to clearly express mathematical ideas and concepts. The mathematics instruction the students receive prepares them to think creatively, critically and analytically, enabling them to become problem solvers in all areas of study and in all walks of life.

Science

The study of science is at the heart of the human desire to understand the world around us. All children are natural scientists; they are keen observers of events occurring around them and seek to understand how these events come about and how they can predict similar events in the future. Capitalizing on the natural curiosity of students, the science program at The High School engages students more formally in understanding the natural world. In their science classes, students are taught to develop careful observation, to generate relevant questions, to analyze and interpret data, to discuss and defend ideas before peers, and to apply knowledge to novel situations. These skills are essential to all scientific study and are used by students throughout their high school career. The department offers coursework in Physics, Chemistry, Biology each at multiple levels to meet student needs. In twelfth grade the department offers electives in a variety of advanced topics. Coding is offered as well during the arts block.


Science Research Initiative

This program is a three-year course beginning the summer before a student’s sophomore year. Students elect to participate in the class at the end of their freshman year. During the summer between their freshman and sophomore years, students choose a general topic in science that interests them, find ten articles (magazine and newspaper) related to their topic, and summarize them.

Over the course of sophomore year, students narrow down their topic, understand the science content related to their topic, and find lab placements and mentors for the summer. During the summer between their sophomore and junior year, students must dedicate five-to-seven weeks to work in a lab under the guidance of a mentor to complete a project which they will submit to the New York City Science and Engineering Fair during their junior year among various other science competitions.

In the students' junior year, they continue to elaborate on their topic ans commit five-to-seven weeks during the summer following their junior year to work with their mentor on their project. During their senior year, students again participate in the New York City Science and Engineering Fair and have the option of submitting their project to the Intel Science Competition.

Limudei Qodesh

Limudei Qodesh learning experiences are designed to provide students with the skills, knowledge, and most important, the disposition to continue to interact with Biblical and Rabbinic texts throughout their lives. Students are encouraged to see their engagement with these texts and the ideas they express as part of their own developing and growing identity as Jews. Stressing the value of critical thinking, classes are designed to help students learn the skills necessary to engage in close, thoughtful, and reflective readings of the text. Students learn both to raise questions based on their textual studies and to develop the skills necessary to locate textual evidence to support their own conjectures and interpretations. Fundamental to Limudei Qodesh classes is the idea that respectful and thoughtful interactions with others serve to sharpen and refine our own positions. Thus, students learn to listen carefully to each other and to respond seriously and thoughtfully to the other learners in their classrooms.

All four years of the curriculum cohere around an examination of the ברית brit (covenant) between God and the Jewish People. Students in 9th grade study those moments in ספר בראשית (Sefer Bereshit, the Book of Genesis) when the Divine-human relationship is most sharply defined as an expression of ברית brit. Through selected סוגיות (sugyot, portions) from the Talmud, מסכת ברכות (Masekhet Brachot, Tractate of Blessing), students examine תפילה (tefillah, prayer) as a manifestation of the brit. Limudei Qodesh in tenth grade explores the concept of brit at the national level. Students explore the birth of the nation and its early years in the land in their study of ספר שמות (Sefer Shemot, the Book of Exodus). Through selected sugyot, tenth grade Talmud explores the role of Rabbinic law in creating and shaping covenental community. Through an analysis of ספר מלכים and נביאים אחרונים (The Book of Kings, and Latter Prophets), students in the 11th grade explore 400 years of Jewish history culminating in the destruction of the First Temple and the Exile of the nation from their promised land. The study of selections from מסכת סנהדרין (Masekhet Sanhedrin) provides students the opportunity to explore the challenge of creating a just society in the face of fundamental competing values. Twelfth grade course electives push students to articulate what it means for them to be in a ברית brit relationship with God, as they work to integrate the texts, ideas and values that they have studied with their own developing identity as young Jewish adults.

Hebrew

The Hebrew department seeks to develop students' proficiency in the Hebrew language as a primary vehicle for expanding their connection to and love of Israel, and for enriching their understanding of their national, religious, and cultural identity. In order to enable every learner to develop a connection to the Hebrew language, students follow one of three paths: Hebrew Language and Literature, for students with prior experience learning Hebrew; Basic Hebrew, for students who need additional support in second language acquisition; Conversational Hebrew, for students who are entering day school in 9th grade and learning Hebrew for the first time.

The curriculum is designed to develop Hebrew language skills in four fundamental areas of language proficiency: speaking, reading, writing and listening. The curriculum for each year is organized around thematic units that provide opportunities for students to use Hebrew language to communicate about ideas and events that are central to their life experiences as adolescents, to support their ability to navigate everyday life in Israel, and to explore their growing and developing identity as Jewish young adults. The 9th curriculum explores מורשת דורות (Moreshet Dorot, Tradition as Heritage), while the 10th grade course coheres around the concept of בין אדם לחבירו (Bein Adam Lehavero, Interpersonal Relationships) The eleventh grade theme, דילמות וערכים (Dilemot v'arachim, Values in Tension,) focuses on Israeli culture and society. Twelfth grades electives include a comparison of Tel Aviv and New York, a course on Contemporary Issues in Israeli Society, and a conversational Hebrew class focusing on traveling throughout the world.

World Languages

The goal of our French and Spanish classes is to make students as proficient as possible in four areas - speaking, listening, reading, and writing. Thus, the classes are conducted almost exclusively in the target language. Plunged into an immersion environment, the target language is the only available tool with which to communicate. Authentic situations for real communication are thus at the core of our courses, and grammar and vocabulary are studied as a means to the end of communication. In class, students do skits, conduct interviews and surveys, present individual projects, and engage in group and class discussions.

The Arts

Art at Heschel High School helps students develop a love of observing their world and perfect skills with which to express their observations. The Art Department exposes students to a variety of experiences in the visual arts with an emphasis on an exploration of materials, techniques, ideas, critical analysis, art history, and personal expression. We encourage students to feel comfortable enough to try new experiences in art so they can develop competence and an awareness of the process of art. Students gain a strong foundation in visual concepts through studio courses that include, drawing, painting, two-dimensional and three-dimensional design, printmaking, illustration, sculpture, graphic design, and digital photography. These courses include methods of working from observation, memory, and imagination. Artists’ work and periods in art history are referenced in relation to the lessons.

VIEW STUDENT ARTWORK

Music

The goal of the Music Department is to make music an accessible, enjoyable and expressive outlet for our students. We aim for our students to become knowledgeable and thoughtful musicians who can both listen critically and feel confident playing and/or singing music on their own. The focus of instruction is on Western music, both classical and popular, with a heavy emphasis on performance, theory and composition. We strive for students to gain the confidence to produce their own music and student compositions and arrangements are regularly performed by the bands or choral ensemble. The Garageband program on the students' Mac computers is a central tool used in class. Classroom activities include live music making, careful ear training, experimentation with musical technology, score analysis and philosophical discussions. The department is also dedicated to connecting our students to their heritage and community through the arts. Every course exposes students to Israeli and Jewish music, as part of performance repertoire or as resources when learning theory.

Our education is based on the belief that artistic expression is essential to our students social, emotional, intellectual and religious development. We aim to teach our students how to create art with care, intention and love so that they can apply these skills elsewhere and, as Rabbi Heschel challenged the young people of the world, to build their lives as a work of art.

Our classroom is equipped with:

  • Full size piano
  • Three performance keyboards
  • Acoustic and electric guitars
  • Drum set and many hand percussion instruments
  • Violins, clarinet, trumpet
  • Professional soundboard
  • Full recording studio, several microphones, cables, stands, PAÕs, headphones, DA converters
  • Finale Notation program for computerized MIDI composition
  • MIDI keyboards--one per student

All students are required to fulfill two years of Arts study, in any combination of Art and Music. Every 9th grade student is required to take one semester of Music. Students can elect to take Music classes during all four years of high school. In addition to our formal classes our musical extra curricular activities include: The Heschel Harmonizers, Jazz Band, Electronic Music Club and our yearly Musical Theater production.

Students can elect to take Music classes during all four years of high school. In addition to our formal classes our musical extra curricular activities include: The Heschel Harmonizers, Jazz Band, Electronic Music Club and our yearly Musical Theater production.

Physical Education

The goal of the physical education department is for students to develop habits that assure them productive exercise that leads to maximal physical health and lifelong fitness. Each year, students may elect physical education, jazz and hip hop dance (taught through a residency with the Alvin Ailey Company), or yoga.

Students who elect to play team sports may be exempted from the physical education class during the seasons that they are playing. Physical Education classes consist of strength-training and conditioning, eight team sports, four individual sports, and indoor games. Students are expected to develop proficiency in the fundamentals of the sports and games, learn the strategies that apply to each, know the safety concepts associated with each, and develop an appreciation for cooperation and a sense of fair play