Opening Minds, Bridging Differences, Living Jewish Values.

Lower School Updates

Lower School Weekly Updates


As part of their study of world communities, Grade 3 students have been thinking about how a home influences how one lives. Students have studied homes from around the world to learn how climate, natural resources and economic conditions have effected the traditional architecture, one example being houses in marshy areas are sometimes built on stilts. The lesson sequence culminated with the students building a house based on a given set of environmental conditions and natural resources. The classes were challenged to create a home that would meet the needs of its occupants. Students spent significant time planning their projects and collaborating with their partners to develop a design, procure materials, and build their homes.

Grade 4 students have been studying the great waves of immigration to America. Their unit culminated in an Ellis Island simulation. The students experienced what it might have been like for the immigrants who passed through Ellis Island many years ago.

Preparing for their NYC Celebration sequence, Grade 2 students worked with EverBlocks to explore how to use the materials to create everyday items such as desks and chairs. They will use the blocks to create skyscrapers and different modular representations of a New York skyline.

Last but not least, 2-607 celebrated their Siddur Ceremony, where the students received their first siddurim, something they will use for tefillah (prayer) throughout their years at Heschel.

Grade 5 students completed their studies of the Civil Rights Movement by interviewing Peter Geffen, founder of the Heschel School, about his involvement in civil rights activism in the 1960's. They discussed the summers he spent registering voters in South Carolina as well as his attendance at Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior's funeral.

In the summers of 1965 and 1966, Peter and his lifelong friend Mickey Shur (now an Orthodox rabbi and the retired Hillel Director of Queens College for over 30 years) travelled to South Carolina to register voters,after training in the tactics of nonviolent resistance. Peter vividly described the risks undertaken by African-Americans who chose to register, knowing that the white owners of the land they were farming would make sure to be seen at the voter registration locations as a threat to the future of their livelihoods. Many had not attended school and had to be taught to read and write well enough to complete the registration form. The students asked a lot of thoughtful questions: whether it was hard to convince people to register, knowing the risks (sometimes it was...) and whether Peter felt scared, knowing how the police were responding violently to many of the different forms of nonviolent resistance at the time. Peter told the story about when he was living with a black family, who were hosting him for the time he was working, and they were having a planning meeting in their home. For some reason, they decided to meet in the kitchen. That decision turned out to be a life saving one. While they were meeting, the police fired a shotgun through the big window in the living room. It was powerful for the students to hear first hand how risky it was for Peter, and for all of the civil rights workers — particularly the African-Americans who were targeted by the police -- to stand up for what they believed in.

Peter also spoke about his experience at Dr. King's funeral. Upon seeing the country's violent response to the civil rights protests, Dr. King famously said to his wife "Corrie, I am not going to live out the days of my life. When I die, I want to be buried the way the poorest black sharecropper is buried. No hearse, just a plain, old farm wagon and no fancy horses, just two mules." Apparently on the morning of the funeral, at 4 AM it emerged that one of the two mules was missing. Peter and Mickey were given the job of finding another mule! Later that morning, as the cortege proceeded from the Ebenezer Baptist Church to the burial site, Peter and Mickey were given the responsibility of accompanying Rabbi Heschel, as well as Senator and Presidential candidate Robert Kennedy, through the streets of Atlanta. During that walk, Peter, in despair and bewilderment about King's death, five years after President Kennedy's death, turned to Rabbi Heschel and asked plaintively, "What are we to do now?" Rabbi Heschel didn't respond right away. He kept walking. Then he turned around and and said simply: "You must teach the children. You must teach them a Judaism that can remake the world." We have that moment to thank both for the existence of our school and for its mission -- to bring forward and to embody the teachings of these two great activists and philosophers. It was a fitting end to the week after Dr. King's birthday to watch the faces of our 5th graders as they took these stories in.

2-604 commemorated receiving their first siddurim at their Siddur Ceremony, something they will use for tefillah (prayer) throughout their years at Heschel. This special program incorporated the children's questions and thoughts about prayer.

Chatterbooks, the Lower School book club, recently read the book "Al Capone Does My Shirts" by Gennifer Choldenko, The book is a work of historical fiction which takes place in 1935 and tells the story of a boy, Moose Flannigan, whose family moves to Alcatraz Island. He lives there along with a handful of other families whose parents worked and lived lived there. The book also focuses on Moose's sister, Natalie, who is autistic and shows how Moose and Natalie's parents try to find the best support for Natalie during a time when people with autism did not have the support and opportunities they have today.

Chatterbooks gives students the opportunity to read a book they may not have known about before and engage in thoughtful, insightful discussions about literature, history and life with their peers.

2-606 commemorated receiving their first siddurim at their Siddur Ceremony, something they will use for tefillah (prayer) throughout their years at Heschel. This special program incorporated the children's questions and thoughts about prayer.

Grade 5 students began a unit learning about and reflecting on ability, disability and difference. To begin this unit, the students welcomed Trina Hazell, Miss Wheelchair 2018. Trina told the children about the challenges she has overcome and about her studies in college this year.