20 Jan Students Hard at Work: Rigorous Learning at Schechter Manhattan

We are approaching the midpoint of the school year and students throughout the upper elementary and middle school grades are in the midst of rigorous learning projects. So, as I walked through classrooms this week students were too busy to notice me. They are working hard and here is some of what they are busy with:

The second grade students are completing their study of the first chapter of Bereshit, and they are busy studying the language of the text in original Hebrew and tracking the details and structure of the creation story. Soon they will apply their understanding of the text to culminating projects that they will present to their parents and peers at the Bereshit celebration in a few weeks.

The third grade students are exploring the culture of Native Americans as they lived in the 17th Century. They are learning about Native American art, music, clothing, food, housing, transportation, and narrative and then extrapolating values from these aspects of culture. They will work in groups to research Native Americans who lived in different areas of North America, and each student will develop a project within the group about something of his or her interest. They will present their research and artifacts that they create to parents and peers at the upcoming Longhouse celebration.

Fourth grade students are researching rain forests as an example of ecosystems and habitats. They are learning about elements of ecosystems, such as adaptations, interactions, and food chains through study of living things, animals and plants. Each student has chosen a living thing as a research project and in the coming weeks they will each write a paper and design a creative component. They will then present their learning in eco-tours presentations to parents and peers.

The fifth grade is working on a Jewish history unit that focuses on Eastern European Jews in 19th century. They are exploring cultural aspects, such as life in shtetls and the Yiddish language, as well as learning about anti-semitism, preparing for holocaust study in middle school. The unit continues with study about immigration of Eastern European Jews to the US, which will lead to their immigration projects. Each student will research a specific immigration group or institution, write a paper, and present their learning to parents and peers.

Middle School students are working hard on their exhibitions which take place twice a year in each Middle School grade and are an extension of the types of presentations that elementary school students complete. Sixth grade students are working through a full cycle of the scientific process- observing phenomenon, asking scientific questions, developing hypotheses, creating experiments to test their hypotheses, gathering data, drawing conclusions, and asking more questions for further study. While all the students are growing bacteria and measuring it, they each have designed different hypotheses to be tested in their experiments. They will present their findings to parents and peers at their exhibition presentations.

Eighth grade students explore a year long theme of the American Dream and the American Reality in their Humanities class. They each focus their research and exhibitions on a different American subculture. Students interview a person from their chosen subculture to learn about their perspective on the American Dream and the American Reality. Students then write research papers and create creative components which express the ideas they have discovered in their research. The research and creative component are shared with their parents and peers during an exhibition.

By now you may have noticed that these various learning activities and projects share a common approach to building students’ knowledge, understanding, and skills. The projects all involve in depth study which takes many hours over many weeks. Through their study the students explore and become expert in their topics. The projects are also multi-faceted and multi-step, asking students to consider ideas in a variety of ways and show what they learn in varied ways. The projects all include skill building, in reading, writing, research, and presentation. And they all give students opportunities to share their learning with others, their peers, parents and learning community.

Year in and year out I have found that our students are up for the challenge of this type of in depth learning and sharing. I am really pleased to see them deeply engaged, interested and committed to their various areas of study and I don’t mind that they don’t have time to look up from their work when I happen by.

Benjamin Mann

Author’s Chair

Each week we will feature the written work of our students. We hope that you will stop by every week and see what they are writing and thinking about.



Gan students wrote about what they did over the weekend.

I WeT OT ADDY BRTEF  (I went to Abby’s birthday.)


i WNet skeeyiG/i WeNt to skee scooL  (I went skiing.  I went to ski school.)


I WT TO and VKIN  (I went to a vacation.)


I weAt ON The 2AV SUDWAY ADAND the M23 ANd the M14 ( I went on the 2nd Ave subway and the M23 and the M14)



Kitah Bet

This week for their Reading Response Journals, Kitah Bet students were asked to write about a character in one of their books and explain how they were similar and how they were different to them. They were asked to share as many details as they could.

Click here to read work by LiatTsofiaDavid, and Ariel.


Kitah Dalet

Kitah Dalet students read and discussed specific books in a book club setting.  They focused their discussions on how the main character changed throughout the course of the book.  As a final project, they wrote paragraphs describing the change using evidence from the text to support their ideas.

Click here to read writing by EllaArielle, and Ari.


Kitah Chet

Kitah Chet students are in the midst of working on their American Dream exhibition project and have completed some parts of the project thus far. One part of the project is to interview someone about their American Dream, and collect their stories. After the interview, students typed up excerpts, and provided an analysis of why they chose to include those questions and answers.

Click here to read work by ItamarAsher, and Hannah.