Dear Parents,

For many of us, our children are receiving an education that is VERY different than our own.  For some, this may be a welcome change, while others may long for the old system in which we were taught. 

In this TED talk (below), Sir Ken Robinson shares a thought-provoking perspective on shifting our educational models.  He begins by asking the question: what is our children's education supposed to prepare them for?  What skills will the 21st century work environment entail?  How can we ensure that our children's schooling gives them what they need to succeed in the future?  Definitely some food for thought for your Shabbat.

Shabbat Shalom,

Chani Okonov, Head of School

In this talk from RSA Animate, Sir Ken Robinson lays out a vision for changing education paradigms. An important, timely talk for parents and teachers.

Table of Contents

  • Preschool Highlights: It All Starts with Going Up the Steps: A Look at Math in Preschool
  • Lower School Highlights: A Healthy Dose of Competition Goes a Long Way
  • Middle School Highlights: Striking a Balance: How to Help Your Child Navigate Long Term Projects
  • Jewish Learning and Literacy: Parsha Inspirations
  • Parent Partnership: How to Teach Children to Honor and Revere Their Parents - Part 1
  • Teacher Feature: Spotlight on Mr. Berlin

Upcoming Events

  • Professional Development Day (K-8): January 15th (Preschool Open)
  • Lower School Admissions Open House: January 18th
  • Preschool Parent Teacher Conferences: January 22-30 (date varies per class)
  • Tu B'Shvat Festival: January 31st

It All Starts with Going Up the Steps: A Look at Math in Preschool

Little Mazel is excited about Math! As we all know excitement is contagious!   But how do we do it?  "Mathematics is part of Everyday Life" is the mindset we have adopted and use daily in here at Little Mazel.  This approach to early math learning starts with counting steps on the way to the upstairs. What do we accomplish by this simple #physicallyactivenoworksheetsinvolved #nosittingbyatable activity? Believe it or not, this daily routine helps children understand the meanings, uses, and representations of numbers.  Children learn to verbally count in sequence to 10 and beyond, and develop flexibility in counting, including counting on and counting backward.

This is the core of the Little Mazel Mathematics Philosophy: to teach children rudimentary knowledge by being mathematically mindful when doing regular, sometimes even daily things that we don't pay attention to, whether it is going upstairs and downstairs, setting the table for lunch, or giving tzedakah.  The only thing you have to do is to become mathematically mindful and you will be wowed by the fact that you are surrounded by  MATH! 

As soon as children come into the classroom, math is waiting for them. A present/absent chart, a calendar, dates of birthdays in the class and much more personally relevant mathematical facts.  This is why these bits of math facts are so interesting for children.

In this way, Little Mazel concentrates on providing children with an environment that will help them develop an awareness of numbers and their uses, associate number names, quantities, and written numerals; recognize and use different ways to represent numbers (for example, groups of objects or dots).  

Every curriculum unit is connected with math concepts.  Through daily activities and projects, our Mazel Morahs teach children to distinguish and describe size attributes, including length, weight, and capacity or volume; compare objects according to various size attributes and much more.  

Excited for math learning,

Morah Inna Izman, Early Childhood Director

Understanding the process of measurement using appropriate tools.

Shop and count.... there's so much math at the grocery store!

With rational counting (one to one correspondence), parking questions are resolved.

Working with shapes to create a fire truck 

It is always fun to learn with a friend.

1,2,3 is easy as ABC

A Healthy Dose of Competition Goes a Long Way

What is competition? Is it an innate human trait? How does it shape the lives of students? When I was a child, competition was an integral part of school. There was always a winner and a loser, the highest and the lowest test grade, there was a valedictorian at graduation and a sense of urgency when trying to succeed. At the same time, competition in the classroom fostered certain detrimental qualities that did not  serve students in a positive way. These days, the “everyone gets a trophy” mentality seems to have permeated our culture and this is apparent in many school settings. Is there a happy medium? If so, how is it achieved?

At Mazel Day School, our goal is to cultivate a healthy sense of competition. There is a lesson in winning but there is also a lesson in losing. Children must learn that focus, effort and strong work ethic are influential in success and that in life, we don’t always win. More importantly, we aim to teach our students to be good sports. Good sportsmanship does not only pertain to extracurricular activities. It is a character trait fosters the following qualities:

  • Fairness
  • Being a team player
  • Respecting the rules
  • Putting forth your ultimate best efforts
  • Winning with class
  • Losing with grace
  • Learning from mistakes

How do our teachers integrate these lessons? In kindergarten, one of the most pervasive things you’ll see our teachers do is celebrate everyone’s successes. Children learn to be happy for others when others win. This is built upon throughout the grades and teachers implement informal forms of competition throughout their teaching. For example, in fourth grade, Morah Michelle conducts regular Math Bees. Children practice their math facts and mental math while being timed.

In the third and fourth grade, students are currently studying for Scripps class spelling bees. They receive two weeks to prepare independently and compete in their respective classrooms.

Last year, our second grade students had the opportunity to participate in the national NOETIC math competition. Thanks to an involved group of parents who took on the initiation, preparation and registration process and to Morah Milana for administering, our kids scored impressively and earned medals and honorable recognition. This year, third grade students continue to participate in the NOETIC math competition.

Mazel Day School is a progressive setting that strikes the perfect balance between academic rigor and community. This is evident in the way that our children learn to compete. Most importantly, our teachers foster the idea that their students must always strive to be the best version of themselves and set goals to help them get there.

Sonya Finkel-Levy, Lower School Principal

Mazel Lower School Highlights

Morah Julia's students riveted as they listen to the mini-lesson

Kindergarten working on their social studies communities project: building a model of Manhattan Beach

Fourth graders enjoying a science activity called Predator/Prey 

Teamwork as students practice important phonics skills together

Striking a Balance: How to Help Your Child Navigate Long Term Projects

Our Middle School students have begun preparing for the MDS Social Studies Fair. This is a tremendous learning opportunity for our students.

These project-based learning experiences are impactful and help develop important skill sets. When students take projects home, oftentimes the question arises how do I best support my child with their work?

When I was a classroom teacher, I always took the opportunity at back to school night to remind parents that they have already gone through school; now it’s their children’s turn.

Learning experiences are the most impactful when the child drives the execution and work. Meanwhile, there are many ways you can support your child in order to maximize their learning.

Here are some tips for helping your child navigate long - term projects:

  1. Go over the assignment/rubric with your child. Ask them questions about how they plan to accomplish their work. This is a great time to make suggestions or offer constructive criticism.
  2. Make a list of the required materials. Help guide your child to use materials that around the house.
  3. Work with your child to create a realistic timeline for their work. Help ensure there is time set aside and stick to the schedule.
  4. Be present. When your child is working, be available to them for questions, guidance, and anything that requires adult supervision.
  5. Remember this is your child’s work and it should look like a child completed it.

Thank you for your ongoing partnership.

Shabbat Shalom.

Yours in learning,

Dina Freeman, Middle School Principal

A Moment in Science: Mass & Acceleration

This week, 6th graders investigated Newton’s Second Law of Motion by asking the question “How does the mass of an object affect its acceleration?”

Students measured the masses of marbles and ping pong balls, then rolled each down a ramp of varying heights over multiple trials to determine which ball (the heavier or lighter one) would accelerate faster.

Fight Evil or Do Good?

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

I recently stumbled upon an article titled: "Seven Tips
for Fighting Fairly in Marriage." It opened by saying that, "Fighting fairly is one of the most important skills you can learn in order to keep your marriage healthy and strong..." I hear the logic. If you're going to end up fighting anyways, why not learn to fight fairly? At the risk of sounding youthful and newly married (which I am), I believe the premise is faulty. Not based on my own limited experience and knowledge of marriage, but based on the very first model of matrimony—between G-d and His people, who have lovingly celebrated together thousands of anniversaries.

Life can be categorized as one long struggle. The particulars of the battle are unique to each individual, but the concept of fighting is not. The common enemy we share is the "evil inclination." It comes in various colors, shapes, and sizes, but ultimately it wants the same thing from us all. It wants our undivided attention, it wants to employ all our energies in the pursuit of selfish desires. On the flipside, we each possess a G-dly, or goodly, inclination whose agenda is the exact opposite. It wants to corral all our resources and talents in the interest of developing a relationship with G-d helping our fellows. At the crux of the struggle, however, is the fight for total control over the reservoir of love we each possess—the human capacity to love unconditionally. The love which in its natural form is directed towards G-d. If there is one thing that generates the life-long tug-of-war we experience, it is the struggle for ownership of that love. Will that love remain directed towards G-d, or will it, G-d forbid, be re-channeled towards oneself and lead to an egocentric & hedonistic lifestyle? But how is this war best fought? How does one outwit the enemy? How is the side of good to maintain ownership over this fountain of love? And what of someone who awakens one day to the realization that he's allowed his evil inclination to assume control, & now wishes to reclaim the love for his G-dly soul? How does one shake off a well-entrenched enemy? This was the subject of debate between two eighteenth century great Chasidic masters: the founder of Chabad, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, & his contemporary, Rabbi Aryeh Leib of Shpole (affectionately known as the "Shpoler Zeide").


How to Teach Children to Honor and Revere Their Parents - Part 1

Modern parents are often caught between a rock and a hard spot as we try to be both tuned in to our children's emotional world (of which we are so much more aware than our parents' generation was), while at the same time teaching respectful and cooperative behavior.  The Torah offers us an amazing solution: this beautiful value, the Mitzvah of Kibud Av V'Eim.  When presented in this way, children learn to be respectful, kind and compassionate in a way that is emotional attuned rather than a way that is forceful and demanding.

Teaching our children the mitzvah of "Kibud Av V'eim" is one of the greatest gifts we can give them for their future - both in terms of their ability to have respectful relationships on a personal level (friendships, marriage, etc.), as well as in any future interaction in school or work with teachers and/or employers/colleagues.  It is not for nothing that it is included in the 10 Commandments, and the only one of the commandments which includes a reward ("long life") within the text.

To help us understand the importance of this concept, we share a 2-part article by Sarah Chana Radcliffe, M.Ed., C. Psych. Assoc.  Here is the first part of the article, which gives context and focuses on the underlying skills a child needs in order to develop a respectful relationship with their parents: The Secret Guide to Successful Parenting, Part 1

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 1"

This week's Spotlight: Mr. Berlin

This week, we proudly share an interview with Mr. Mendel Berlin, our Middle School ELA Teacher.


BIO: I immigrated from the Ukraine in 1992. I started attending Jewish schools in Brooklyn (and for the first time learned of the beauty and pride of being a Jew). Later, I received my English Language and Education Degree from Hunter College. After teaching in Manhattan for seven years and spending several years learning and living in Jerusalem, I moved to Staten Island and six years ago, joined Mazel Day School. I currently teach the 5th, 6th, and 8th Grade English Language Arts (as well as Public Speaking), and run various Middle School programs, such as the monthly Pep Rally.

I became a teacher because... I felt that the best way to influence and mold the next generation is in the school environment, and particularly in the classroom. To me, it is an privilege to play a part in helping shape our future and to be able to impart not only English Language Arts skills, but other lifelong traits like critical thinking, teamwork/collaboration, and leadership.

My vision for our students is… that they learn to believe in themselves and their special mission and purpose in this world. For a young person to embrace their rich Jewish heritage, their G-d given abilities, and to make the best of their lives, is the key to success.

I joined Mazel because… I felt that this environment of tending to the whole child is unique. Mazel is really like a family, an atmosphere wherein every student is comfortable being themselves and learning how to maximize their potential - academically, spiritually, and socially.

The most difficult part of teaching Middle School is... helping the students navigate through the pre-teen and teenage stage of life. It's often a complicated and frustrating couple of years, and I am always learning of ways how to relate and be supportive.

My best advice to parents is…. tell your kids that you love them at least once a day (but a few times a day is even better!). Although we are all busy with the million tasks we must tend to, we must remember that these few words make a world of a difference in a child's self-image to know that someone loves them. In that sense, to say it in the morning before school would be ideal because it can give a boost your child's day.

If I could teach my students only one thing, it would be... ingraining the trait of patience and seeing the "big picture." Very often I find that students get frustrated because they only see the here-and-now. With students whom I taught for several years, I remind and show them how much they've improved. With new students, I give them example of successful people who patiently persevered and overcame their challenges.

If I would not have become a teacher I would have become… a professional writer. I love writing during whatever spare time I find. I write a weekly digital newsletter with commentary on the Torah portion and how it applies to modern times.

A trick I use in the classroom is… taking interest in the lives of each of my students and acknowledging them whenever they do something positive. I like to write "I am proud of you" on tests where a student excelled, and "I believe in you - you can do better," when a student had struggled.

Outside of school I like to... learn Torah, go on family trips, and play basketball or exercise.

Shabbat Shalom!

Shabbat Candle Lighting Time: 4:32 PM

Shabbat Ends: 5:36 PM

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Mazel Day School

2901 Brighton 6th Street

60 West End Avenue