Middle School (6-8)
The CESJDS English program encourages students to engage literature in ways that are meaningful to them. Through lively conversation, group work, and writing workshops, students learn to push their own boundaries of understanding, to take risks in their own thought, and to share their analyses both verbally and in critical, written essay form. Students learn to understand literal and figurative meaning in text, to explore the relationship between character and plot and to develop a working knowledge of the critical writing process from brainstorming to editing. Students engage in close reading, exploring various forms of literature from memoir to poetry to fiction, and begin to develop the skills necessary to write original, critical essays.
Selection of titles in the 7th/8th grade curricula:
The CESJDS Mathematics Department emphasizes conceptual understanding; algebraic fluency; and thoughtful, independent, persistent problem-solving. With any new mathematical challenge, we encourage students to examine and draw connections between numerical, algebraic, and visual/graphical perspectives. Students are taught to use calculators and other technology thoughtfully, so as to deepen their understanding and enhance their problem-solving capabilities. Middle School math classes emphasize mastery of the study skills necessary for success in the Upper School math curriculum.
Science comes alive at CESJDS as students actively engage their own learning, applying knowledge to problem-solve in various situations, and analyzing and synthesizing information in order to better understand the world in which we live. Whether studying life science in 7th grade or physical sciences in 8th grade, middle school science students engage frequently in labs and in hands-on exploration of core science concepts, verify the “realism” of their answers, and develop study skills which serve them well in all areas of their study and life outside of school. Students assume the role of primary scientists as they design, implement and present their own interactive science projects as part of the Weinberg Family Science Fair at the conclusion of their middle school years.
Weinberg Family Science Fair
The middle school social studies program is designed to teach students to think and act as global and US citizens, and to encourage them to make connections among current events and historical patterns.
Seventh grade students study world cultures and geography, traveling virtually to other regions and continents as they explore connections among personal, social and cultural developments throughout the world. Students learn and apply the methods and skills utilized by geographers, historians and social anthropologists to analyze how humans interact with and are affected by where they live. The Global Challenges Conference is the highlight of the year, as students research, analyze and present solutions to challenges facing countries and regions around the world.
In the eighth grade, students learn about the foundations of the U.S. political system, develop their understanding of the interplay among the three branches of the Federal government, discuss the relationship of the U.S. with other nations, and analyze the roles of the citizen in our democracy. Students closely follow the news emanating from the three branches of government, and present their own Model Congress in which they present and argue well researched bills of their own creation intended to better our society.
Grade 8 Model Congress
The Jewish Text department emphasizes a pluralistic approach to Jewish text study and religious expression, using the basis of text to foster conversations about identity, values and religious principles while offering students a space to reflect on their own beliefs and personal Jewish expression. Students gain critical text analysis skills, they look at the ‘what’ and ‘so what,’ and the curriculum is consistent with English and History classes, thus reinforcing a similar style of learning.
The Tanakh (Bible) courses offered at the middle school level fosters love for the text and stories of the Torah, and develops skills that allow for a more in-depth and critical study of the texts. Students learn about Rashi, Moses, the development of the Israelites and Jewish people, and focus on the books of Samuel I and II.
In Toshba (Rabbinics), students explore the foundational texts of our tradition through the themes of relationships and responsibility to the world around us and through the lense of Jewish identities. How can one be a mentsch (good person), a good friend to others, and an upstanding citizen of family and the world? What is my personal Jewish identity and how do I fit in the ebb and flow of Jewish history, as well as in the modern world? These classes prompt students to look at their own Jewish identity, how they fit into the community, and how text and tradition are relevant to their lives. Middle school students are also offered the opportunity to prepare for more intensive study of Talmud, the core text of Jewish law.
Designed to promote proficiency with Hebrew as the voice and language of the Jewish people, our program engages students in the study of Hebrew and Hebrew culture through hands-on, language learning experiences. Students build their vocabulary and language structures, read Hebrew literature, engage in conversations, and explore current events in Israel and the world through the use of Hebrew. Courses are offered at varying levels and students are pushed to engage with the language in written and verbal forms.
Students have a multitude of opportunities to explore the arts in middle school. We offer courses in Art & Design, Ceramics and Photography--all yield showcasing of student work throughout our building. Our studios offer state-of-the-art equipment-- a kiln and six potter's wheels in Ceramics, and a dark room and several Apple computer stations in Photography.
Our Performing Arts program includes a wide range of classes -- including Intro to Piano, Acting, and Shakespeare on Stage. We help students feel comfortable in front of an audience, foster broad appreciation of music, theater and dance, and celebrate creative expression.
Middle school students take part in physical activities, including team sports and individualized fitness training, that address each component of health-related fitness, including muscular strength and endurance, flexibility, and cardiorespiratory health and fitness. Students are introduced to the various principles of training and how they can be utilized in improving personal health and fitness. Students also learn to interpret the results of physical fitness assessments and use this information to assist in the development of individualized physical fitness goals that allow them to achieve the health benefits of physical activity.
Throughout middle school, students engage in innovative interdisciplinary projects and programs which place the student and learning at the center. Whether designing and delivering their own TED-Talks or exploring the linkages between Jewish text and biological sciences, middle school students are expanding their core skills in reading, research, writing and presentation while tying together the learning they are doing in their varied courses. Through each of these programs and projects, teachers model a collaborative approach to learning, engaging students in applying core skills and understanding to the world around them.
The Middle School features several STEM opportunities for students. In addition to elective options allowing students to explore coding and robotics, we offer a competitive LEGO Robotics club for interested students.
This is a critical piece of our middle school. The middle school brain is not adept to learning in silos, and that minds and bodies of these students are changing.
The middle school program is intentionally designed to integrate block teaching and cross-over between subjects and teachers, and also to get students out of the classroom for hands-on learning experiences. CESJDS has a partnership with Facing History and Ourselves, whom facilitates conversations about equality, injustice, and what it means to be an Upstander. Students have the opportunity to converse, ask questions, and build connections.
Facing History and Ourselves
CESJDS is privileged to have a robust Middle School Athletics program and offers a large variety of team opportunities in which students can participate. There are 8 sports teams (both competitive and practice) solely for Middle School students: boys and girls soccer, boys and girls volleyball, boys and girls basketball, boys baseball, girls softball, track, and cross-country. Our athletic coaches work within the philosophy of our whole program to develop leadership, teamwork, fair play, and derekh eretz/respect in every player.
Middle school students can choose from a diverse selection of extracurricular clubs. Twice a week during the school day, time is set aside for clubs to meet.
Examples of clubs include: Video Game Design, Greek Club, Art Club, Jewish Court of All Time, Photography, Gay-Straight Alliance, Open Gym, Knesset (Student Government), Chess Club, and more.
CESJDS values the many robust people, places and organizations in the DC Metro area. We take our students to both performing arts and visual arts field trips as well as other sites that enrich the learning experience.
There are opportunities for middle school students to build their leadership skills through participation in athletics, the middle school musical, volunteer programs and special committees for Shabbtonim, the 8th grade celebration and more.
The leadership skills that students shape during their years at CESJDS continue in college and beyond.
A period of sacred time each day allows the active expression of identity, community, reflection, and learning. Zman Kodesh allows students to develop skills needed in a communal prayer setting, exercise leadership, and be exposed to the values associated with prayer, reflective time, and space.
Middle School students may choose from:
- Derekh T'filah - an Egalitarian learner's minyan designed to provide students with the opportunity to reinforce prayer skills and also explore topics in Judaism through discussion and special programming.
- Mechitzah Ashkenazi - utilizes the traditional liturgy and worships in the Ashkenazi tradition. Females and males sit separately, and the service is led by males.
- Mechitzah Sephardi - utilizes the traditional liturgy and worships in the Sephardi tradition, with an emphasis on lively music. Females and males sit separately, and the service is led by males.
- Masorti - based upon the concept of a daily chiyyuv (obligation) for prayer, Masorti utilizes the complete, traditional Ashkenazi liturgy. Seating is mixed, and females and males participate equally.
Middle School students gain confidence in themselves when they perform before a supportive audience, learn to work as a team, and enhance their creativity. There are a wide variety of opportunities for Middle School students in the performing arts — the Middle School musical, seasonal concerts, and many special assemblies and programs.
Collage is the middle school magazine that meets during club period once a week. Students submit written stories, poems, drawings, photography and works of art for the magazine. The magazine is published at the end of the school year.
The middle school emphasizes the importance of being a mentsch by exploring topics in regularly scheduled advisory sessions related to interpersonal communications, communal responsibility, friendship, respect, striving for growth and more. These sessions happen across a grade and are driven by our guidance department. Academic advising topics are also covered in some of these sessions.
Middle School is an important time to provide children the space to begin considering their own views and beliefs within a framework that encourages educated and informed opinions. Across the middle school experience we provide opportunities for students to express their thoughts, share their perspectives and reflect on what they know as they consider what else they need to learn and discover in order to shape their identity and spiritual selves.
Our middle school features a 1:1 ratio of guidance counselors to grades. The counselors' objective is to help students emerge from their CESJDS experience as responsible, caring, and self-directed young adults who are ready to meet the challenges of today's society.
Counselors support a student's academic progress, advise on course selection and extracurricular participation, and serve as a resource for social and emotional issues and personal wellness. Our Middle School guidance counselors are trained to work with students of this particular age demographic and the challenges and celebrations that come with it.
Teachers, guidance counselors and learning specialists work with students to develop strong study, time management, note-taking, writing, reading and test-taking skills. We strive to bring all children to their personal bests knowing that each person has strengths to tap and areas of growth on which to focus.
We view volunteer service as part of our mission as Jews and global citizens. One of the core values and missions of our school is tikkun olam – repairing the world. This is an obligation incumbent upon all of us to work toward the perfection of society by taking on some of its challenges.
There are many opportunities for students to get involved in social-action initiatives. For example, the Service-Learning Day sends Middle School grades into the community to volunteer at local nonprofit organizations. In addition to volunteering, students learn about the organizations' mission, the populations served, and ways to get involved.
Several times a week, students gather with peers in cross-grade groups to get to know each other and feel a part of a sub-community within the division. Discussion topics for this time include social issues, pluralism, appreciation, and diversity; 7th and 8th graders are afforded leadership opportunities, and 6th graders are able to learn and gain wisdom from their older peers.
Welcome to middle School!
“If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
And when I am only for myself, then what am I?
And if not now, when?”
– Hillel the Elder
The CESJDS Middle School embraces early adolescents’ intellectual and developmental needs as we stretch their minds and nurture their souls at this critical stage in their lives. We have a dynamic educational experience organized around three major themes: Identity (Grade 6), Community (Grade 7), and Action (Grade 8). Each year presents students with a variety of opportunities to learn, explore, and grow as they seek greater independence and identify their own interests and strengths. Our purposeful approach challenges students to discover that their increased independence calls for increased responsibility for self, respect for others, and engagement with the world.
IDENTITY (GRADE 6)
CESJDS is thoughtful in how to help 6th-grade students transition into Middle School. The coursework and programming purposefully focus on skill building, social-emotional development, identity exploration, study skills, community building, and robust academics. Students are challenged, provided exposure to new settings and experiences, and prepared academically for the rest of Middle School.
Our talented teachers utilize a variety of instructional strategies to engage all learners and develop positive connections with every student.
In 6th grade, students research, write, and produce a “TEDtalk” about a topic of personal interest. In the vein of the TEDtalks, these research-based assignments are interdisciplinary. Through this project, students learn how to ask big questions about their topics and review available sources looking for answers to their questions. Past topics have included deforestation, teamwork, self-confidence, volunteering, and more.
COMMUNITY (GRADE 7)
Through the Am Ehad curriculum, we challenge students to broaden their understanding of Jewish peoplehood and their place within the Jewish community. Students explore various communities within the larger Jewish people and how these communities celebrate and live by the Jewish calendar. During Sukkot, students develop a digital Sukkah graphic featuring diverse faces with biographical profiles reflecting the backgrounds of Jews around the world.
The theme of community takes center stage in Grade 7 as students ask how and where they fit with their peers, across the school, and within the broader world. Through the Contemporary Challenges Conference, students have the opportunity to create a visual presentation board demonstrating their mastery of research and writing to analyze a challenge facing the world.
CESJDS partners actively with parents to support the student community around their B’nei Mitzvah. Information sessions, grade-level communication, and class-wide tz’dakah contributions in lieu of gifts create a shared sense of community and inclusivity as students and families celebrate this significant milestone.
ACTION (GRADE 8)
In the last year of Middle School, students put the knowledge and skills they have acquired into action. Through simulations such as Model Congress, they apply debate, negotiation, and presentation skills. At the Weinberg Science Fair, students integrate all aspects of the scientific method by designing, executing, analyzing, and presenting the results of a unique scientific experiment. Students complete their B’nei Mitzvah year working collaboratively on a philanthropy project distributing tz’dakah funds to charitable causes they choose.
In 8th Grade, students participate in a class-wide Shabbaton (Shabbat Encampment) off-campus. Students have the opportunity to learn, bond and experience a meaningful Shabbat in a warm and relaxed setting.
Students culminate their Middle School experience with an interdisciplinary 8th Grade Capstone Project. Each student works closely with faculty to identify an area of interest, specific skills, and Jewish values that they will showcase for the project. The project includes critical writing, speaking, creative presentation, and
problem solving. At the close of the year, students present their work at the 8th Grade end-of-year celebration.
Meet the Principal
Dr. Eliana Lipsky
Middle School Principal
Dr. Eliana Lipsky comes to CESJDS with exceptional educational credentials having completed her doctorate in curriculum and instruction at Loyola University of Chicago and both a Master's and Bachelor's degrees from Boston University in History. Dr. Lipsky taught middle school History and Tanakh at JCDS, Boston's Jewish Community Day School for many years, where she also mentored new teachers. Most recently, Dr. Lipsky worked for five years as an administrator, project coordinator, school consultant, and teacher coach with REACH, a Federation-sponsored organization that serves over fifteen Jewish day schools in the Chicago area. .
Dr. Lipsky has extensive training in teacher education, curriculum and instruction, problem-based learning, and inclusive classrooms. She has published articles on teaching, 21st century literacy, and pluralism in both educational and Jewish educational journals. Dr. Lipsky has taught professional development workshops and seminars for teachers on differentiated instruction, classroom management, authentic assessment, and standards and benchmarks, and created tools for schools to best assess students' academic, social-emotional, and physical needs.