Dear Parents,

One of the keys to a successful educational experience is inspiring MOTIVATION among our students.  Learning is hard work, and requires mental energy, stamina and perseverance.  To be successful, teachers need to find ways to motivate their children to continue to challenge themselves and to embrace the work in front of them.  How to do so?  As adults, we often focus our efforts to motivate children on using prizes (bribes) or consequences (punishments).  And yes, Reward and Punishment are foundational concepts in Jewish belief - they only work up until a point.  There is a greater context that is needed to truly motivate a person - and a child.  At Mazel, while small rewards and prizes are used at times, for smaller tasks that require training (ex: starting a new habit such as orderliness, homework completion, etc.) - most of the time, cultivating intrinsic motivation is our focus.   How does this work with young students?  The "magic" is in our overall classroom environment - an environment which cultivates Independence, Creativity, Personal Growth and Purpose.   What's the connection between Independence, Creativity, Personal Growth, Purpose.... and Motivation?  To help understand it, we bring you a great TED Talk by Daniel Pink.  This will really get you thinking about Motivation in a different way :)

Shabbat Shalom,

Chani Okonov, Head of School

Table of Contents

  • Preschool Highlights: It Starts with a Village: Social Studies in Preschool  
  • Lower School Highlights: Language Learning: Citizens of the World
  • Middle School Highlights: Growing up in the Digital Age
  • Jewish Learning and Literacy: Parsha Inspirations
  • Parent Partnership: How to Teach Children to Honor & Revere Parents - Part 2
  • Teacher Feature: Spotlight on Morah Chava

Upcoming Events

  • Preschool Parent Teacher Conferences: January 22-30 (date varies per class)
  • Tu B'Shvat Festival: January 31st

It Starts with a Village: Social Studies in Preschool

The Community Thematic Unit is the one of most important, interesting, and challenging units we teach at "Little Mazel".  Our children get to meet many new people inside and outside of our school.  This is one of the major units that teach children about the value of community, and about the people in a community. It teaches children safety and thoughtfulness, and provides an understanding about the way the world works (e.g. the mail doesn't just magically appear in our mailbox, someone actually delivers it). We try our best to always address the people in our neighborhood.  We might wave, ask his or her name when possible and generally try to show our children that they should feel safe and that these people take care of us.

The ancient proverb comes to mind when I think about the Community Unit experience: "It takes a village to raise a child". What does it mean? It means that it takes an entire community of different people interacting with children in order for children to experience and grow in a safe environment. This is what happens in Little Mazel this month. Our little friends meet and learn about the people who make sure that they are well-taken care of: firemen, rabbis, police officers, maintenance "wizards" (Mr. Gena and Isabel), bakers, librarians, doctors, and crossroad guards.     

"Tell me and I forget, teach me and I remember, involve me and I learn" is a golden Mazel strategy. We teach children through involving them in real-life experiences and creating for them a real-life environment.  In addition to field trips and outings to explore the community, book reading, role-playing, group discussions are additional powerful elements that support learning. For example, by participating in dramatic play with costumes and acting out behaviors of community helpers, children develop important social/emotional skills and are more comfortable with people who wear uniforms?  It’s important for children to learn that there are safe, friendly people to help them if they get sick or have an emergency. It’s comforting for children to learn that there are strangers outside of their family who are concerned for their safety and well-being and to understand who they can trust.

This fascinating unit can be continued at home. Here are some ideas for how to get to know the people in your neighborhood and to help your child understand a bit more about how the world works:

  • Take a trip to a local farm
  • Stop and watch a local construction site, study the machines
  • Write a thank you note to a teacher
  • Visit a post office, mail a letter, create your own stamp
  • Watch the garbage and recycling trucks; then visit a local library or the internet to read more about the process of sanitation
  • Find someplace to watch planes or visit a Museum of Aviation or Flight
  • Find someplace to watch trains
  • Ask to take a peek into the kitchen of a local restaurant
  • On your next plane ride, ask for a peek inside the cockpit. Maybe if he or she has time, the pilot will indulge you and your child

Let's explore our world together,

Morah Inna Izman, Early Childhood Director

A tireless Fireman putting out fires... they are our role models!

Meeting a real-life fireman at the fire station!!!

WOW, Am I really drilling?  Mr. Gena sharing his trade.

Rabbis are community leaders and teachers!

What can be better than pouring and mixing?

Our young chefs are about to discover the science of baking.

Language Learning: Citizens of the World

Mazel Day School is unique in so many ways: small class size, a progressive approach to teaching and learning, strong parent community and involvement. There is so much more that sets us apart. This week, I’d like to bring your attention to the multiple language learning that our students are fortunate enough to have access to.

At Mazel Day School, not only do children build their English vocabulary, but they also have daily opportunities for Hebrew immersion as well as opportunities for Russian immersion. One might ask, won’t all of these different modes of language communication stifle growth or confuse a young child? On the contrary, language learning at a young age is actually “mind medicine” for young children. Learning multiple languages only enhances a child’s growth and development.

Although Mazel’s population has a significant number of Russian speaking families, we also have a significant number of non-Russian speaking families and an even larger number of families who do not speak Hebrew. At times, parents may worry that they cannot help their child with their Russian or Hebrew homework or that they will not be able to learn the language since they don’t speak it at home. This is simply not true. In fact, language learning is an ongoing process and your children should be doing their homework mostly on their own. It’s sometimes easy to question why your child is learning languages rather than focusing more on math, science or reading and writing. The answer is very eloquently stated by two Cornell linguistic researchers: teaching your child how to speak another language(s) is good for the developing brain.

How learning foreign languages at a young age helps Mazel Day School students:

  • Children who learn a second language can maintain attention despite outside stimuli better than children who know only one language
  • It helps to develop *empathy*
  • It helps train a child’s ear for music
  • It increases critical thinking skills
  • Learning and speaking multiple languages contributes to a child’s future success
  • It improves memory
  • Learning foreign languages increases proficiency in one’s native language
  • Multilingual people are better at observing their surroundings therefore becoming more perceptive
  • Boosts cognitive function: being multilingual is a constant brain exercise!

What is especially crucial about learning new languages at a young age is that the brain is still forming learning pathways. Language learning is a huge contributor to building those pathways. How lucky are our students to receive the benefit of learning 2 other languages? This will surely enhance their learning in English and provide them with unique skills that will lead them to success. Encourage your children to share their language learning with you!

Sonya Finkel-Levy, Lower School Principal

More Mazel Moments!

2B students deeply involved in critical analysis of text with Ms. Malamud

K1 working together to construct a 3D model of a community

K1 architects at work!

K1 students paint different parts of their community model

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Hands on learning through kinesthetic/tactile science experiments

Second grader, Noah exploring properties of matter during science

Growing up in the Digital Age

Last week parents from our Lower and Middle Divisions joined together to see and discuss the powerful documentary titled, Screenagers. It addresses the challenges children face growing up in the digital age. As a school, we are constantly reflecting, and learning to ensure we are helping our students develop the skills necessary to thrive in an ever - changing world. In terms of our role as educators, it is important we model self reflection, limits and balance.

How lucky are we to that HaShem gives us a weekly break from technology on Shabbat!

This week, I worked with middle school students who had not seen the film. We engaged in discussion before, during and throughout the film. Our students’ responses and questions were thoughtful and demonstrated an understanding that the digital age has pros and cons.

One comment I heard a lot from students was at times, they want their friends and family members to pay more attention to them instead of their device. Wow! From the mouths of babes, a request for all of us to be more present.

Navigating the digital age will be an ongoing focus as the year continues.

Ask your child their thoughts about this topic, their answers will impress you. At MDS, our students are reflective, thoughtful learners.

Shabbat Shalom.

Yours in learning,

Dina Freeman, Middle School Principal

Middle School Art: Making an Impression

Students are learning about positive and negative space through printmaking. From inception, to carving, to inking, and finally to stamping, our students created some beautiful work! (Carving/Print 1: Yonni Gabo, Carving/Print 2: Joseph I.)

Math: Learning through Play

Even Middle Schoolers learn through play! Students practice their math skills through a variety of targeted games.

Math: Measurement and Conversion

Students are learning how to convert measurements. They are practicing by teaching each other the skills they’ve mastered. Together students work on posters that explain the concept they are responsible for.

Declaration of Independence?

Excerpted from the "Parsha Family Guide" attached.  Click the link to read more...

A new nation is created, and now it's time for its
founder to deliver his first speech to the newbies.
The Founder will not be speaking directly to the people today; instead He has sent His chief-of-staff to pass on the first order of business.

"Umm... Mmmm... Today we are going to discuss the lunar cycle. We need to teach the courts of law how to establish months of a lunar year. Here it is: if two witnesses see the crescent moon on the..." STOP! Cut.


Imagine the scene. The Jews are still slaves in Egypt, and now for the very first time ever they will hear a Torah lesson. And it's about the moon. The moon?! Is that what's on the agenda? Are the moon and galaxies the most crucial topic to discuss with a newly formed nation? If I had a say in the matter, I would suggest the Ten Commandments as a serious contender for the opening address, or better yet a general introduction to the Jewish mission. But astronomy? The explanation is powerful.

When the Jewish court (the bet din) declares on a new month, based on the testimony of two witnesses who claim to have seen the new moon, they cause the whole universe to follow their lead. For example, the mystics explain that on every Rosh Hashanah a new and unprecedented divine light enters the world. But who decides when Rosh Hashanah is? The bet din! Based on whose testimony? Two simple Jews! Around you and me the entire creation revolves!

In His premier lesson, G-d revealed to us the biggest secret and most vital piece of knowledge: Dear Son, you have the power to change and influence the world. Your actions have an effect on the universe and the entire cosmos!


How to Teach Children to Honor and Revere Their Parents - Part 2

"Kibud Av V'Eim" - the mitzvah to honor and revere our parents is an essential part of the Jewish value system.  In fact, it is one of the 10 Commandments - putting it high on the list of priorities in Jewish family life.  But, how are we actually instilling this concept in our children?  To better understand what this mitzvah is all about as well as practical ways to bring this value into our homes, we share a great article by Sarah Chana Radcliffe, M.Ed., C. Psych. Assoc.How to positively teach children to honor and revere their parents.  Take the time to read it!  It will open your eyes to a whole new way to view your relationship with your children.

Sarah Chana Radcliffe practices psychology in Toronto, Canada. She is the author of  Make Yourself at Home (Menucha Press 2012), The Fear Fix HarperCollins 2013) and Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice (HarperCollins 2006). 

Click to Read "The Secret Guide to Successful Parenting, Part 2"

This week's Spotlight: Morah Chava

This week, we proudly share an interview with Morah Chava Mandler, our Nursery teacher


BIO:I was born and raised in a small town in Slovakia. I am an only child. My love for teaching started in London where I worked as an au-pair at the age of 18. Since then, I have accumulated over six years of experience as a classroom teacher. Still, I felt that a formal course of studies on the college level was an absolute necessity to take my craft to the next level. I enrolled at Touro College and obtained a B.S. degree in Early Childhood Education and Special Education in January 2014 along with a NYS teacher certificates. In the year that followed, I obtained an M.S. degree in the same program.  This is my third year teaching in Mazel. My husband and I have two young children.

I became a teacher because... As an 18 year old au –pair in London, I realized that it gives me joy to see children learning new things from me and I really enjoyed spending time with them. After that I was given the opportunity to teach in a Jewish preschool in Budapest, Hungary, were I realized that this is the path I want to continue on.

My vision for our students is… to be proud Jews and continue their curiosity and thirst for learning just as they had when they walked into the preschool the first day.

I joined Mazel because… It felt right as soon as I walked in and was given a tour by Chani, our principal. Being a perfectionist, my standards were high to find a workplace (after being at home with my small children) that is warm, welcoming and a pleasure to work in. I had no doubt, that this was the place I want to be part of. Mazel is built on principles of Jewish education and it also provides a progressive model of education. Our values are not only taught but modeled by the teachers and staff. We have an open relationship with the parents.

My favorite memory as a student.... My elementary history teacher made learning fun and that gave me a boost to learn even more and the love for history

The most difficult part of teaching Preschoolers is... Perhaps to teach the children that some things are not worth fighting for, take it easy.  As I say, “Life goes on”.

My best advice to parents is…. let them be independent. Give your children the freedom to experience life fully and learn its many important lessons. Let them feel the pride when they accomplish something.

If I could teach my students only one thing, it would be... Be kind. Treat others as you would like to be treated..

If I would not have become a teacher I would have become… a stewardess.

A trick I use in the classroom is… my sense of humor to inspire the children to do something they are reluctant to do.

Outside of school I like to... travel.

Shabbat Shalom!

Shabbat Candle Lighting Time: 4:40 PM

Shabbat Ends: 5:43 PM

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Mazel Day School

2901 Brighton 6th Street

60 West End Avenue