The Philosophy Behind the Curriculum
The general studies curriculum at the N.E. Miles Jewish Day School strives to fully engage students in real world, cross-curricular, and project-based learning. Our philosophy, like the teachers and students themselves, is flexible and adaptable. Through teaching that emphasizes communication, collaboration, and critical thinking, our students learn strategies for learning and applying information to the world outside the classroom. This approach is complemented through off-campus learning experiences and a commitment to community, social justice, and global citizenship.
Our language arts curriculum is focused on empowering students through language. From kindergarten where our students develop a love of reading and are introduced to research skills, to third grade where our students host publishing parties to share their own writing, our curriculum focuses on building the foundations for strong readers, writers, and thinkers.
Students in our upper grades engage in collaborative literary studies focused on history and social justice to develop critical thinking and communication skills. In addition, our upper grades are frequently expected to share their analysis, research, and writing through multimedia presentations, speeches, and seminar discussions. Students are given the space and opportunity to engage with and analyze different texts and master the nuances of writing for different purposes and audiences. In keeping with the NEMJDS mission, students learn how to effectively articulate their ideas in order to become advocates for the community. Ultimately, the language arts curriculum is a space for our students to develop the communication skills and confidence needed in order to embrace their identity and the world around them.
Math at NEMJDS goes beyond facts, figures, and formulas. Our mathematics curriculum centers on conceptual understanding and the application of skills to explore the complexity and beauty of the natural world. Mathematical reasoning, communication using mathematical vocabulary, algebraic thinking, and computational fluency are equally important components of our math program. A wide variety of manipulatives, lessons infused with technology, and thoughtful differentiation ensure that each student at NEMJDS reaches his or her potential. Math, like our other curricula, is also paired in interdisciplinary contexts. While naturally paired with science, math is intricately tied to other subjects as well. Our approach integrates data collection, analysis, and problem solving with art, social studies, and history. As a result, students at NEMJDS recognize the importance of mathematical understanding and see themselves as competent mathematical thinkers.
As the world shrinks, the value and necessity of a relevant, global social studies program grows. At NEMJDS, in addition to the Common Core Standards, students are asked daily to think about how they interact with people in their communities and in the world. Opportunities are provided on a regular basis for students to connect with diverse groups of people. Throughout the school, our students are engaged in meaningful actions in the greater community. Beginning in grade six, social justice is a key component underlying the study of civics, geography, and history. Students learn about and from the past and are challenged to think about their present and the future. In addition to these larger contexts, we identify leadership qualities, learn the characteristics of an informed, responsible citizen, and emphasize learning goals such as the ability to interpret primary and secondary sources. Through their social studies education at NEMJDS, students understand and know they can make a positive difference in the world.
Our science curriculum uses inquiry-based activities to present age-appropriate concepts in the context of “real science, while promoting collaborative learning.” Through the use of technology and project-based learning, our science curriculum organically adheres to Alabama’s new science standards which will be implemented statewide during the 2016-2017 school year. Our students have genuine opportunities to experience science through the learning of skills and processes – not just content. Science projects are interdisciplinary and frequently include a Judaic component, such as the exploration of energy and motion through the construction of a Rube Goldberg machine built to include symbols of Passover for the Technion Jewish Day School Challenge.
At the NEMJDS, we encourage creativity and individual growth for well-rounded, compassionate students. To this end, we strive to empower students through innovative learning. Technology is embedded at every grade level, bringing traditional subjects to the classroom in exciting new ways and allowing students to hone the skills of the future as they learn. Unique opportunities, such as coding, game design, robotics, math and science simulations, research, Skype communication with international classrooms, and more, encourage students to develop skills, passions, and critical thinking. NEMJDS students go home each day having experienced the deep satisfaction that comes from personal involvement in learning and creating.