And you shall teach [these words] diligently to your children.
— Deuteronomy 6:7
Extraordinary education is more than just a part of our tagline; it’s at the core of our existence.
Academic excellence goes far beyond having a high grade point average. Denver Jewish Day School students are inspired to think deeply, work collaboratively, listen thoughtfully, and act responsibly. Literature circles, science experiments, project-based learning, lively classroom discussions, and Judaic values make up the daily experience here. Through active, hands-on learning with their peers, students gain an understanding of the world around them and the impact they can have.
Our pluralistic Judaic program inspires learners to develop a positive relationship with Israel, Torah, and the Jewish people. A focus on our school’s Divrei Chaim (or Words to Live By) is fostered in all grades. Hebrew language is studied in every grade as well, and a six-week Hebrew Immersion Program (HIP) in Israel for the 10th grade is a keystone of our Hebrew program.
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Denver JDS Lower Division students begin the reading and writing curriculum with a balanced approach to literacy instruction including components of Orton-Gillingham multisensory early reading instruction. Students quickly develop into capable readers and gain analytic reading skills in a variety of genres. During their elementary school years, Denver JDS students build a life-long love of literature and expand their reading and writing abilities in fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. They begin writing their own books in kindergarten, focus on animal research in first grade, and become poets in second grade. In third grade, students study fairy tales and write and produce their own fairy tales through a project based learning unit before moving towards persuasive writing in fourth grade. In fifth grade they apply all of their literacy skills through interdisciplinary units in science and social studies.
The Denver JDS Lower Division uses a Singaporean approach to teach mathematics. Using the Math in Focus program, students develop a strong sense of numbers and number relationships, and they use learned skills to solve real-world problems. Denver JDS students engage in a variety of problem-solving approaches to become excellent mathematicians. Our math curriculum focuses on students’ applying their math skills to the world around them and begins with using manipulatives in early grades. In later grades, students use their math skills to enhance elements of project based learning through activities such as designing floor plans for houses.
Denver JDS Lower Division students engage in a hands-on and inquiry-based approach to exploring the scientific world. Through the FOSS (Full Option Science System) science curriculum, students exercise logical thinking and decision-making skills as they explore the natural world. They experience, perceive, and hypothesize about the physical and theoretical worlds of biology, physics, chemistry, earth science, and astronomy. A key aspect of our science program is the hands-on focus, encouraging students to experiment and experience. Students sift dirt to find different sizes of rocks and gravel, explore water conservation on our Wabash Farmette, and build structures to withstand natural disasters.
Lower Division students explore the world through the study of geography, civics, history, economics, and Jewish learning. They gain insight and begin to understand their role in the community, state, region, and world through classroom lessons and offsite learning experiences. Social studies content is regularly integrated into students' literature and Judaic studies and often includes experiential elements such as field work and involvement in the local community.
Beginning in kindergarten, Denver JDS Lower Division students participate in an age-appropriate immersion model of Hebrew every school day. Our Hebrew teachers are all native speakers and focus on exposing students to as much Hebrew as possible in Hebrew class and throughout the day in order to foster proficiency in the areas of reading, writing, speaking, and listening comprehension. Starting in first grade, Hebrew classes use Tal Am as a basis and also integrate authentic materials such as Hebrew texts, stories, and poems in order to foster a connection to the language and to develop a keen understanding of Israel and well as Jewish concepts and values. Hebrew classes also have a deep connection to Israel and often include elements of Israeli culture such as songs and dance.
In Judaic Studies, Denver JDS Lower Division students develop their sense of being a Jew by learning about, reading, and discussing biblical and interpretive texts. They also experience a wide range of holiday practices, study the history of the Jewish people, foster a love of Israel, and learn the specific prayers to participate in tefilah (prayers). As in many of our subject areas, experiential education plays a key role on our Judaic studies program. From the kindergarten trip to Israel and building the mishkan (tabernacle) to learning about how to make and blow a shofar (ram’s horn) to a visit with the matzah (unleavened bread) factory, our students take their Jewish learning to the next level.
We use a variety of assessment measures to monitor student growth. In-class assessments, curricular assessments, DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills) for reading assessment in kindergarten through second grade classrooms, DRA2 (Developmental Reading Assessment) in kindergarten through fifth grade, MAPs (Measure of Academic Progress) in grades two through seven help us measure student progress and adjust instruction accordingly, and Avant assessments in grades two and five to measure student Hebrew language proficiency.